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´╗┐Title: Essays Before a Sonata
Author: Ives, Charles, 1874-1954
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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version by Al Haines.



ESSAYS BEFORE A SONATA


by

Charles Ives



TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
  INTRODUCTORY FOOTNOTE BY CHARLES IVES
  INTRODUCTION
  I--PROLOGUE
  II--EMERSON
  III--HAWTHORNE
  IV--"THE ALCOTS"
  V--THOREAU
  VI--EPILOGUE
  INFORMATION ABOUT THIS E-TEXT EDITION


**********************************************************


BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH


Charles Ives (1874-1954) was probably one of the most
psycho-intellectually brilliant, imaginative and flexible Americans to
ever "walk the land of freedom."  A graduate of Yale, he became a
multi-millionaire in the American insurance industry, introducing
brilliant innovations within that industry.  He also, unlike a few
composers, found the time and the money (being a shrewd and practical
businessman) to get married and have children.

His accomplishments for which he is best known, however, are those in
the field of music.  At the time of its composition, Ives' music was
probably the most radically modern in history, and by itself had enough
material to serve as the foundation of modern 20th century music.  For
example, at the turn of the century, this eccentric composer created
band works featuring multiple melodies of multiple time signatures
opposing and complimenting each other within the same piece.  Ives was
also a revolutionary atonal composer, who created, essentially without
precedent, many atonal works that not only pre-date those of
Schoenberg, but are just as sophisticated, and arguably even more so,
than those of the 12-tone serialist.

Among those atonal works was his second, "Concord" piano sonata, one of
the finest, and some would say the finest, works of classical music by
an American.  It reflects the musical innovations of its creator,
featuring revolutionary atmospheric effects, unprecedented atonal
musical syntax, and surprising technical approaches to playing the
piano, such as pressing down on over 10 notes simultaneously using a
flat piece of wood.

What a mischievious creative genius!

And yet, despite the musically innovative nature of these works, from a
thematic standpoint, they are strictly 19th century. Ives, like
American band-composer Sousa, consciously infused patriotic or
"blue-blood" themes into his pieces.  In the "Concord," he attempted to
project, within the music, the 19th century philosophical ideas of the
American Transcendentalists, who obviously had a great impact on his
world-view.

Thus, while other atonal composers such as Schoenberg or Berg attempted
to infuse their music with "20th century" themes of hostility, violence
and estrangement within their atonal music, the atonal music of Ives
is, from a thematic standpoint, really quite "tonal."

Ives wrote the following essays as a (very big) set of program notes to
accompany his second piano sonata.  Here, he puts forth his elaborate
theory of music and what it represents, and discusses Transcendental
philosophy and its relation to music. The essays explain Ives' own
philosophy of and understanding of music and art.  They also serve as
an analysis of music itself as an artform, and provide a critical
explanation of the "Concord" and the role that the philosophies of
Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and the Alcotts play in forming its
thematic structure.


*************************************************************

"ESSAYS BEFORE A SONATA," BY CHARLES IVES

*************************************************************


INTRODUCTORY FOOTNOTE BY CHARLES IVES


"These prefatory essays were written by the composer for those who
can't stand his music--and the music for those who can't stand his
essays; to those who can't stand either, the whole is respectfully
dedicated."



INTRODUCTION


The following pages were written primarily as a preface or reason for
the [writer's] second Pianoforte Sonata--"Concord, Mass., 1845,"--a
group of four pieces, called a sonata for want of a more exact name, as
the form, perhaps substance, does not justify it. The music and
prefaces were intended to be printed together, but as it was found that
this would make a cumbersome volume they are separate. The whole is an
attempt to present [one person's] impression of the spirit of
transcendentalism that is associated in the minds of many with Concord,
Mass., of over a half century ago. This is undertaken in
impressionistic pictures of Emerson and Thoreau, a sketch of the
Alcotts, and a Scherzo supposed to reflect a lighter quality which is
often found in the fantastic side of Hawthorne. The first and last
movements do not aim to give any programs of the life or of any
particular work of either Emerson or Thoreau but rather composite
pictures or impressions. They are, however, so general in outline that,
from some viewpoints, they may be as far from accepted impressions
(from true conceptions, for that matter) as the valuation which they
purport to be of the influence of the life, thought, and character of
Emerson and Thoreau is inadequate.



I--Prologue


How far is anyone justified, be he an authority or a layman, in
expressing or trying to express in terms of music (in sounds, if you
like) the value of anything, material, moral, intellectual, or
spiritual, which is usually expressed in terms other than music? How
far afield can music go and keep honest as well as reasonable or
artistic? Is it a matter limited only by the composer's power of
expressing what lies in his subjective or objective consciousness? Or
is it limited by any limitations of the composer? Can a tune literally
represent a stonewall with vines on it or with nothing on it, though it
(the tune) be made by a genius whose power of objective contemplation
is in the highest state of development? Can it be done by anything
short of an act of mesmerism on the part of the composer or an act of
kindness on the part of the listener? Does the extreme materializing of
music appeal strongly to anyone except to those without a sense of
humor--or rather with a sense of humor?--or, except, possibly to those
who might excuse it, as Herbert Spencer might by the theory that the
sensational element (the sensations we hear so much about in
experimental psychology) is the true pleasurable phenomenon in music
and that the mind should not be allowed to interfere? Does the success
of program music depend more upon the program than upon the music? If
it does, what is the use of the music, if it does not, what is the use
of the program? Does not its appeal depend to a great extent on the
listener's willingness to accept the theory that music is the language
of the emotions and ONLY that? Or inversely does not this theory tend
to limit music to programs?--a limitation as bad for music itself--for
its wholesome progress,--as a diet of program music is bad for the
listener's ability to digest anything beyond the sensuous (or
physical-emotional). To a great extent this depends on what is meant by
emotion or on the assumption that the word as used above refers more to
the EXPRESSION, of, rather than to a meaning in a deeper sense--which
may be a feeling influenced by some experience perhaps of a spiritual
nature in the expression of which the intellect has some part. "The
nearer we get to the mere expression of emotion," says Professor Sturt
in his "Philosophy of Art and Personality," "as in the antics of boys
who have been promised a holiday, the further we get away from art."

On the other hand is not all music, program-music,--is not pure music,
so called, representative in its essence? Is it not program-music
raised to the nth power or rather reduced to the minus nth power? Where
is the line to be drawn between the expression of subjective and
objective emotion? It is easier to know what each is than when each
becomes what it is. The "Separateness of Art" theory--that art is not
life but a reflection of it--"that art is not vital to life but that
life is vital to it," does not help us. Nor does Thoreau who says not
that "life is art," but that "life is an art," which of course is a
different thing than the foregoing. Tolstoi is even more helpless to
himself and to us. For he eliminates further. From his definition of
art we may learn little more than that a kick in the back is a work of
art, and Beethoven's 9th Symphony is not. Experiences are passed on
from one man to another. Abel knew that. And now we know it. But where
is the bridge placed?--at the end of the road or only at the end of our
vision? Is it all a bridge?--or is there no bridge because there is no
gulf? Suppose that a composer writes a piece of music conscious that he
is inspired, say, by witnessing an act of great self-sacrifice--another
piece by the contemplation of a certain trait of nobility he perceives
in a friend's character--and another by the sight of a mountain lake
under moonlight. The first two, from an inspirational standpoint would
naturally seem to come under the subjective and the last under the
objective, yet the chances are, there is something of the quality of
both in all. There may have been in the first instance physical action
so intense or so dramatic in character that the remembrance of it
aroused a great deal more objective emotion than the composer was
conscious of while writing the music. In the third instance, the music
may have been influenced strongly though subconsciously by a vague
remembrance of certain thoughts and feelings, perhaps of a deep
religious or spiritual nature, which suddenly came to him upon
realizing the beauty of the scene and which overpowered the first
sensuous pleasure--perhaps some such feeling as of the conviction of
immortality, that Thoreau experienced and tells about in Walden. "I
penetrated to those meadows ... when the wild river and the woods were
bathed in so pure and bright a light as would have waked the dead IF
they had been slumbering in their graves as some suppose. There needs
no stronger proof of immortality." Enthusiasm must permeate it, but
what it is that inspires an art-effort is not easily determined much
less classified. The word "inspire" is used here in the sense of cause
rather than effect. A critic may say that a certain movement is not
inspired. But that may be a matter of taste--perhaps the most inspired
music sounds the least so--to the critic. A true inspiration may lack a
true expression unless it is assumed that if an inspiration is not true
enough to produce a true expression--(if there be anyone who can
definitely determine what a true expression is)--it is not an
inspiration at all.

Again suppose the same composer at another time writes a piece of equal
merit to the other three, as estimates go; but holds that he is not
conscious of what inspired it--that he had nothing definite in
mind--that he was not aware of any mental image or process--that,
naturally, the actual work in creating something gave him a satisfying
feeling of pleasure perhaps of elation. What will you substitute for
the mountain lake, for his friend's character, etc.? Will you
substitute anything?  If so why? If so what? Or is it enough to let the
matter rest on the pleasure mainly physical, of the tones, their color,
succession, and relations, formal or informal? Can an inspiration come
from a blank mind? Well--he tries to explain and says that he was
conscious of some emotional excitement and of a sense of something
beautiful, he doesn't know exactly what--a vague feeling of exaltation
or perhaps of profound sadness.

What is the source of these instinctive feelings, these vague
intuitions and introspective sensations? The more we try to analyze the
more vague they become. To pull them apart and classify them as
"subjective" or "objective" or as this or as that, means, that they may
be well classified and that is about all: it leaves us as far from the
origin as ever. What does it all mean? What is behind it all? The
"voice of God," says the artist, "the voice of the devil," says the man
in the front row. Are we, because we are, human beings, born with the
power of innate perception of the beautiful in the abstract so that an
inspiration can arise through no external stimuli of sensation or
experience,--no association with the outward? Or was there present in
the above instance, some kind of subconscious, instantaneous, composite
image, of all the mountain lakes this man had ever seen blended as kind
of overtones with the various traits of nobility of many of his friends
embodied in one personality? Do all inspirational images, states,
conditions, or whatever they may be truly called, have for a dominant
part, if not for a source, some actual experience in life or of the
social relation? To think that they do not--always at least--would be a
relief; but as we are trying to consider music made and heard by human
beings (and not by birds or angels) it seems difficult to suppose that
even subconscious images can be separated from some human
experience--there must be something behind subconsciousness to produce
consciousness, and so on. But whatever the elements and origin of these
so-called images are, that they DO stir deep emotional feelings and
encourage their expression is a part of the unknowable we know. They do
often arouse something that has not yet passed the border line between
subconsciousness and consciousness--an artistic intuition (well named,
but)--object and cause unknown!--here is a program!--conscious or
subconscious what does it matter? Why try to trace any stream that
flows through the garden of consciousness to its source only to be
confronted by another problem of tracing this source to its source?
Perhaps Emerson in the _Rhodora_ answers by not trying to explain

That if eyes were made for seeing Then beauty is its own excuse for
being: Why thou wert there, O, rival of the rose! I never thought to
ask, I never knew; But, in my simple ignorance, suppose The self-same
Power that brought me there brought you.

Perhaps Sturt answers by substitution: "We cannot explain the origin of
an artistic intuition any more than the origin of any other primary
function of our nature. But if as I believe civilization is mainly
founded on those kinds of unselfish human interests which we call
knowledge and morality it is easily intelligible that we should have a
parallel interest which we call art closely akin and lending powerful
support to the other two. It is intelligible too that moral goodness,
intellectual power, high vitality, and strength should be approved by
the intuition." This reduces, or rather brings the problem back to a
tangible basis namely:--the translation of an artistic intuition into
musical sounds approving and reflecting, or endeavoring to approve and
reflect, a "moral goodness," a "high vitality," etc., or any other
human attribute mental, moral, or spiritual.

Can music do MORE than this? Can it DO this? and if so who and what is
to determine the degree of its failure or success? The composer, the
performer (if there be any), or those who have to listen? One hearing
or a century of hearings?-and if it isn't successful or if it doesn't
fail what matters it?--the fear of failure need keep no one from the
attempt for if the composer is sensitive he need but launch forth a
countercharge of "being misunderstood" and hide behind it. A theme that
the composer sets up as "moral goodness" may sound like "high
vitality," to his friend and but like an outburst of "nervous weakness"
or only a "stagnant pool" to those not even his enemies. Expression to
a great extent is a matter of terms and terms are anyone's. The meaning
of "God" may have a billion interpretations if there be that many souls
in the world.

There is a moral in the "Nominalist and Realist" that will prove all
sums. It runs something like this: No matter how sincere and
confidential men are in trying to know or assuming that they do know
each other's mood and habits of thought, the net result leaves a
feeling that all is left unsaid; for the reason of their incapacity to
know each other, though they use the same words. They go on from one
explanation to another but things seem to stand about as they did in
the beginning "because of that vicious assumption." But we would rather
believe that music is beyond any analogy to word language and that the
time is coming, but not in our lifetime, when it will develop
possibilities unconceivable now,--a language, so transcendent, that its
heights and depths will be common to all mankind.



II--Emerson


1


It has seemed to the writer, that Emerson is greater--his identity more
complete perhaps--in the realms of revelation--natural disclosure--than
in those of poetry, philosophy, or prophecy. Though a great poet and
prophet, he is greater, possibly, as an invader of the
unknown,--America's deepest explorer of the spiritual immensities,--a
seer painting his discoveries in masses and with any color that may lie
at hand--cosmic, religious, human, even sensuous; a recorder, freely
describing the inevitable struggle in the soul's uprise--perceiving
from this inward source alone, that every "ultimate fact is only the
first of a new series"; a discoverer, whose heart knows, with Voltaire,
"that man seriously reflects when left alone," and would then discover,
if he can, that "wondrous chain which links the heavens with earth--the
world of beings subject to one law." In his reflections Emerson, unlike
Plato, is not afraid to ride Arion's Dolphin, and to go wherever he is
carried--to Parnassus or to "Musketaquid."

We see him standing on a summit, at the door of the infinite where many
men do not care to climb, peering into the mysteries of life,
contemplating the eternities, hurling back whatever he discovers
there,--now, thunderbolts for us to grasp, if we can, and
translate--now placing quietly, even tenderly, in our hands, things
that we may see without effort--if we won't see them, so much the worse
for us.

We see him,--a mountain-guide, so intensely on the lookout for the
trail of his star, that he has no time to stop and retrace his
footprints, which may often seem indistinct to his followers, who find
it easier and perhaps safer to keep their eyes on the ground. And there
is a chance that this guide could not always retrace his steps if he
tried--and why should he!--he is on the road, conscious only that,
though his star may not lie within walking distance, he must reach it
before his wagon can be hitched to it--a Prometheus illuminating a
privilege of the Gods--lighting a fuse that is laid towards men.
Emerson reveals the less not by an analysis of itself, but by bringing
men towards the greater. He does not try to reveal, personally, but
leads, rather, to a field where revelation is a harvest-part, where it
is known by the perceptions of the soul towards the absolute law. He
leads us towards this law, which is a realization of what experience
has suggested and philosophy hoped for. He leads us, conscious that the
aspects of truth, as he sees them, may change as often as truth remains
constant. Revelation perhaps, is but prophecy intensified--the
intensifying of its mason-work as well as its steeple. Simple prophecy,
while concerned with the past, reveals but the future, while revelation
is concerned with all time. The power in Emerson's prophecy confuses it
with--or at least makes it seem to approach--revelation. It is prophecy
with no time element. Emerson tells, as few bards could, of what will
happen in the past, for his future is eternity and the past is a part
of that. And so like all true prophets, he is always modern, and will
grow modern with the years--for his substance is not relative but a
measure of eternal truths determined rather by a universalist than by a
partialist. He measured, as Michel Angelo said true artists should,
"with the eye and not the hand." But to attribute modernism to his
substance, though not to his expression, is an anachronism--and as
futile as calling today's sunset modern.

As revelation and prophecy, in their common acceptance are resolved by
man, from the absolute and universal, to the relative and personal, and
as Emerson's tendency is fundamentally the opposite, it is easier,
safer and so apparently clearer, to think of him as a poet of natural
and revealed philosophy. And as such, a prophet--but not one to be
confused with those singing soothsayers, whose pockets are filled, as
are the pockets of conservative-reaction and radical demagoguery in
pulpit, street-corner, bank and columns, with dogmatic
fortune-tellings. Emerson, as a prophet in these lower heights, was a
conservative, in that he seldom lost his head, and a radical, in that
he seldom cared whether he lost it or not. He was a born radical as are
all true conservatives. He was too much "absorbed by the absolute," too
much of the universal to be either--though he could be both at once. To
Cotton Mather, he would have been a demagogue, to a real demagogue he
would not be understood, as it was with no self interest that he laid
his hand on reality. The nearer any subject or an attribute of it,
approaches to the perfect truth at its base, the more does
qualification become necessary. Radicalism must always qualify itself.
Emerson clarifies as he qualifies, by plunging into, rather than
"emerging from Carlyle's soul-confusing labyrinths of speculative
radicalism." The radicalism that we hear much about today, is not
Emerson's kind--but of thinner fiber--it qualifies itself by going to
_A_ "root" and often cutting other roots in the process; it is usually
impotent as dynamite in its cause and sometimes as harmful to the
wholesome progress of all causes; it is qualified by its failure. But
the Radicalism of Emerson plunges to all roots, it becomes greater than
itself--greater than all its formal or informal doctrines--too advanced
and too conservative for any specific result--too catholic for all the
churches--for the nearer it is to truth, the farther it is from a
truth, and the more it is qualified by its future possibilities.

Hence comes the difficulty--the futility of attempting to fasten on
Emerson any particular doctrine, philosophic, or religious theory.
Emerson wrings the neck of any law, that would become exclusive and
arrogant, whether a definite one of metaphysics or an indefinite one of
mechanics. He hacks his way up and down, as near as he can to the
absolute, the oneness of all nature both human and spiritual, and to
God's benevolence. To him the ultimate of a conception is its vastness,
and it is probably this, rather than the "blind-spots" in his
expression that makes us incline to go with him but half-way; and then
stand and build dogmas. But if we can not follow all the way--if we do
not always clearly perceive the whole picture, we are at least free to
imagine it--he makes us feel that we are free to do so; perhaps that is
the most he asks. For he is but reaching out through and beyond
mankind, trying to see what he can of the infinite and its
immensities--throwing back to us whatever he can--but ever conscious
that he but occasionally catches a glimpse; conscious that if he would
contemplate the greater, he must wrestle with the lesser, even though
it dims an outline; that he must struggle if he would hurl back
anything--even a broken fragment for men to examine and perchance in it
find a germ of some part of truth; conscious at times, of the futility
of his effort and its message, conscious of its vagueness, but ever
hopeful for it, and confident that its foundation, if not its medium is
somewhere near the eventual and "absolute good" the divine truth
underlying all life. If Emerson must be dubbed an optimist--then an
optimist fighting pessimism, but not wallowing in it; an optimist, who
does not study pessimism by learning to enjoy it, whose imagination is
greater than his curiosity, who seeing the sign-post to Erebus, is
strong enough to go the other way. This strength of optimism, indeed
the strength we find always underlying his tolerance, his radicalism,
his searches, prophecies, and revelations, is heightened and made
efficient by "imagination-penetrative," a thing concerned not with the
combining but the apprehending of things. A possession, akin to the
power, Ruskin says, all great pictures have, which "depends on the
penetration of the imagination into the true nature of the thing
represented, and on the scorn of the imagination for all shackles and
fetters of mere external fact that stand in the way of its
suggestiveness"--a possession which gives the strength of distance to
his eyes, and the strength of muscle to his soul. With this he slashes
down through the loam--nor would he have us rest there. If we would dig
deep enough only to plant a doctrine, from one part of him, he would
show us the quick-silver in that furrow. If we would creed his
Compensation, there is hardly a sentence that could not wreck it, or
could not show that the idea is no tenet of a philosophy, but a clear
(though perhaps not clearly hurled on the canvas) illustration of
universal justice--of God's perfect balances; a story of the analogy or
better the identity of polarity and duality in Nature with that in
morality. The essay is no more a doctrine than the law of gravitation
is. If we would stop and attribute too much to genius, he shows us that
"what is best written or done by genius in the world, was no one man's
work, but came by wide social labor, when a thousand wrought like one,
sharing the same impulse." If we would find in his essay on Montaigne,
a biography, we are shown a biography of scepticism--and in reducing
this to relation between "sensation and the morals" we are shown a true
Montaigne--we know the man better perhaps by this less presentation. If
we would stop and trust heavily on the harvest of originality, he shows
us that this plant--this part of the garden--is but a relative thing.
It is dependent also on the richness that ages have put into the soil.
"Every thinker is retrospective."

Thus is Emerson always beating down through the crust towards the first
fire of life, of death and of eternity. Read where you will, each
sentence seems not to point to the next but to the undercurrent of all.
If you would label his a religion of ethics or of morals, he shames you
at the outset, "for ethics is but a reflection of a divine
personality." All the religions this world has ever known, have been
but the aftermath of the ethics of one or another holy person; "as soon
as character appears be sure love will"; "the intuition of the moral
sentiment is but the insight of the perfection of the laws of the
soul"; but these laws cannot be catalogued.

If a versatilist, a modern Goethe, for instance, could put all of
Emerson's admonitions into practice, a constant permanence would
result,--an eternal short-circuit--a focus of equal X-rays. Even the
value or success of but one precept is dependent, like that of a
ball-game as much on the batting-eye as on the pitching-arm. The
inactivity of permanence is what Emerson will not permit. He will not
accept repose against the activity of truth. But this almost constant
resolution of every insight towards the absolute may get a little on
one's nerves, if one is at all partial-wise to the specific; one begins
to ask what is the absolute anyway, and why try to look clear through
the eternities and the unknowable even out of the other end. Emerson's
fondness for flying to definite heights on indefinite wings, and the
tendency to over-resolve, becomes unsatisfying to the impatient, who
want results to come as they walk. Probably this is a reason that it is
occasionally said that Emerson has no vital message for the rank and
file. He has no definite message perhaps for the literal, but messages
are all vital, as much, by reason of his indefiniteness, as in spite of
it.

There is a suggestion of irony in the thought that the power of his
vague but compelling vitality, which ever sweeps us on in spite of
ourselves, might not have been his, if it had not been for those
definite religious doctrines of the old New England theologians. For
almost two centuries, Emerson's mental and spiritual muscles had been
in training for him in the moral and intellectual contentions, a part
of the religious exercise of his forebears. A kind of higher
sensitiveness seems to culminate in him. It gives him a power of
searching for a wider freedom of soul than theirs. The religion of
Puritanism was based to a great extent, on a search for the unknowable,
limited only by the dogma of its theology--a search for a path, so that
the soul could better be conducted to the next world, while Emerson's
transcendentalism was based on the wider search for the unknowable,
unlimited in any way or by anything except the vast bounds of innate
goodness, as it might be revealed to him in any phenomena of man,
Nature, or God. This distinction, tenuous, in spite of the
definite-sounding words, we like to believe has something peculiar to
Emerson in it. We like to feel that it superimposes the one that makes
all transcendentalism but an intellectual state, based on the theory of
innate ideas, the reality of thought and the necessity of its freedom.
For the philosophy of the religion, or whatever you will call it, of
the Concord Transcendentalists is at least, more than an intellectual
state--it has even some of the functions of the Puritan church--it is a
spiritual state in which both soul and mind can better conduct
themselves in this world, and also in the next--when the time comes.
The search of the Puritan was rather along the path of logic,
spiritualized, and the transcendentalist of reason, spiritualized--a
difference in a broad sense between objective and subjective
contemplation.

The dislike of inactivity, repose and barter, drives one to the
indefinite subjective. Emerson's lack of interest in permanence may
cause him to present a subjectivity harsher on the outside than is
essential. His very universalism occasionally seems a limitation.
Somewhere here may lie a weakness--real to some, apparent to others--a
weakness in so far as his relation becomes less vivid--to the many;
insofar as he over-disregards the personal unit in the universal. If
Genius is the most indebted, how much does it owe to those who would,
but do not easily ride with it? If there is a weakness here is it the
fault of substance or only of manner? If of the former, there is
organic error somewhere, and Emerson will become less and less valuable
to man. But this seems impossible, at least to us. Without considering
his manner or expression here (it forms the general subject of the
second section of this paper), let us ask if Emerson's substance needs
an affinity, a supplement or even a complement or a gangplank? And if
so, of what will it be composed?

Perhaps Emerson could not have risen to his own, if it had not been for
his Unitarian training and association with the churchmen emancipators.
"Christianity is founded on, and supposes the authority of, reason, and
cannot therefore oppose it, without subverting itself." ... "Its office
is to discern universal truths, great and eternal principles ... the
highest power of the soul." Thus preached Channing. Who knows but this
pulpit aroused the younger Emerson to the possibilities of intuitive
reasoning in spiritual realms? The influence of men like Channing in
his fight for the dignity of human nature, against the arbitrary
revelations that Calvinism had strapped on the church, and for the
belief in the divine in human reason, doubtless encouraged Emerson in
his unshackled search for the infinite, and gave him premises which he
later took for granted instead of carrying them around with him. An
over-interest, not an under-interest in Christian ideal aims, may have
caused him to feel that the definite paths were well established and
doing their share, and that for some to reach the same infinite ends,
more paths might be opened--paths which would in themselves, and in a
more transcendent way, partake of the spiritual nature of the land in
quest,--another expression of God's Kingdom in Man. Would you have the
indefinite paths ALWAYS supplemented by the shadow of the definite one
of a first influence?

A characteristic of rebellion, is that its results are often deepest,
when the rebel breaks not from the worst to the greatest, but from the
great to the greater. The youth of the rebel increases this
characteristic. The innate rebellious spirit in young men is active and
buoyant. They could rebel against and improve the millennium. This
excess of enthusiasm at the inception of a movement, causes loss of
perspective; a natural tendency to undervalue the great in that which
is being taken as a base of departure. A "youthful sedition" of Emerson
was his withdrawal from the communion, perhaps, the most socialistic
doctrine (or rather symbol) of the church--a "commune" above property
or class.

Picking up an essay on religion of a rather remarkable-minded
boy--perhaps with a touch of genius--written when he was still in
college, and so serving as a good illustration in point--we
read--"Every thinking man knows that the church is dead." But every
thinking man knows that the church-part of the church always has been
dead--that part seen by candle-light, not Christ-light. Enthusiasm is
restless and hasn't time to see that if the church holds itself as
nothing but the symbol of the greater light it is life itself--as a
symbol of a symbol it is dead. Many of the sincerest followers of
Christ never heard of Him. It is the better influence of an institution
that arouses in the deep and earnest souls a feeling of rebellion to
make its aims more certain. It is their very sincerity that causes
these seekers for a freer vision to strike down for more fundamental,
universal, and perfect truths, but with such feverish enthusiasm, that
they appear to overthink themselves--a subconscious way of going
Godward perhaps. The rebel of the twentieth century says: "Let us
discard God, immortality, miracle--but be not untrue to ourselves."
Here he, no doubt, in a sincere and exalted moment, confuses God with a
name. He apparently feels that there is a separable difference between
natural and revealed religion. He mistakes the powers behind them, to
be fundamentally separate. In the excessive keenness of his search, he
forgets that "being true to ourselves" IS God, that the faintest
thought of immortality IS God, and that God is "miracle."
Over-enthusiasm keeps one from letting a common experience of a day
translate what is stirring the soul. The same inspiring force that
arouses the young rebel, brings later in life a kind of
"experience-afterglow," a realization that the soul cannot discard or
limit anything. Would you have the youthful enthusiasm of rebellion,
which Emerson carried beyond his youth always supplemented by the
shadow of experience?

Perhaps it is not the narrow minded alone that have no interest in
anything, but in its relation to their personality. Is the Christian
Religion, to which Emerson owes embryo-ideals, anything but the
revelation of God in a personality--a revelation so that the narrow
mind could become opened? But the tendency to over-personalize
personality may also have suggested to Emerson the necessity for more
universal, and impersonal paths, though they be indefinite of outline
and vague of ascent. Could you journey, with equal benefit, if they
were less so? Would you have the universal always supplemented by the
shadow of the personal? If this view is accepted, and we doubt that it
can be by the majority, Emerson's substance could well bear a
supplement, perhaps an affinity. Something that will support that which
some conceive he does not offer. Something that will help answer Alton
Locke's question: "What has Emerson for the working-man?" and questions
of others who look for the gang-plank before the ship comes in sight.
Something that will supply the definite banister to the infinite, which
it is said he keeps invisible. Something that will point a crossroad
from "his personal" to "his nature." Something that may be in Thoreau
or Wordsworth, or in another poet whose songs "breathe of a new morning
of a higher life though a definite beauty in Nature"--or something that
will show the birth of his ideal and hold out a background of revealed
religion, as a perspective to his transcendent religion--a counterpoise
in his rebellion--which we feel Channing or Dr. Bushnell, or other
saints known and unknown might supply.

If the arc must be completed--if there are those who would have the
great, dim outlines of Emerson fulfilled, it is fortunate that there
are Bushnells, and Wordsworths, to whom they may appeal--to say nothing
of the Vedas, the Bible, or their own souls. But such possibilities and
conceptions, the deeper they are received, the more they seem to reduce
their need. Emerson's Circle may be a better whole, without its
complement. Perhaps his "unsatiable demand for unity, the need to
recognize one nature in all variety of objects," would have been
impaired, if something should make it simpler for men to find the
identity they at first want in his substance. "Draw if thou canst the
mystic line severing rightly his from thine, which is human, which
divine." Whatever means one would use to personalize Emerson's natural
revelation, whether by a vision or a board walk, the vastness of his
aims and the dignity of his tolerance would doubtless cause him to
accept or at least try to accept, and use "magically as a part of his
fortune." He would modestly say, perhaps, "that the world is enlarged
for him, not by finding new objects, but by more affinities, and
potencies than those he already has." But, indeed, is not enough
manifestation already there? Is not the asking that it be made more
manifest forgetting that "we are not strong by our power to penetrate,
but by our relatedness?" Will more signs create a greater sympathy? Is
not our weak suggestion needed only for those content with their own
hopelessness?

Others may lead others to him, but he finds his problem in making
"gladness hope and fortitude flow from his page," rather than in
arranging that our hearts be there to receive it. The first is his
duty--the last ours!


2


A devotion to an end tends to undervalue the means. A power of
revelation may make one more concerned about his perceptions of the
soul's nature than the way of their disclosure. Emerson is more
interested in what he perceives than in his expression of it. He is a
creator whose intensity is consumed more with the substance of his
creation than with the manner by which he shows it to others. Like
Petrarch he seems more a discoverer of Beauty than an imparter of it.
But these discoveries, these devotions to aims, these struggles toward
the absolute, do not these in themselves, impart something, if not all,
of their own unity and coherence--which is not received, as such, at
first, nor is foremost in their expression. It must be remembered that
"truth" was what Emerson was after--not strength of outline, or even
beauty except in so far as they might reveal themselves, naturally, in
his explorations towards the infinite. To think hard and deeply and to
say what is thought, regardless of consequences, may produce a first
impression, either of great translucence, or of great muddiness, but in
the latter there may be hidden possibilities. Some accuse Brahms'
orchestration of being muddy. This may be a good name for a first
impression of it. But if it should seem less so, he might not be saying
what he thought. The mud may be a form of sincerity which demands that
the heart be translated, rather than handed around through the pit. A
clearer scoring might have lowered the thought. Carlyle told Emerson
that some of his paragraphs didn't cohere. Emerson wrote by sentences
or phrases, rather than by logical sequence. His underlying plan of
work seems based on the large unity of a series of particular aspects
of a subject, rather than on the continuity of its expression. As
thoughts surge to his mind, he fills the heavens with them, crowds them
in, if necessary, but seldom arranges them, along the ground first.
Among class-room excuses for Emerson's imperfect coherence and lack of
unity, is one that remembers that his essays were made from lecture
notes. His habit, often in lecturing, was to compile his ideas as they
came to him on a general subject, in scattered notes, and when on the
platform, to trust to the mood of the occasion, to assemble them. This
seems a specious explanation, though true to fact. Vagueness, is at
times, an indication of nearness to a perfect truth. The definite glory
of Bernard of Cluny's Celestial City, is more beautiful than
true--probably. Orderly reason does not always have to be a visible
part of all great things. Logic may possibly require that unity means
something ascending in self-evident relation to the parts and to the
whole, with no ellipsis in the ascent. But reason may permit, even
demand an ellipsis, and genius may not need the self-evident part. In
fact, these parts may be the "blind-spots" in the progress of unity.
They may be filled with little but repetition. "Nature loves analogy
and hates repetition." Botany reveals evolution not permanence. An
apparent confusion if lived with long enough may become orderly.
Emerson was not writing for lazy minds, though one of the keenest of
his academic friends said that, he (Emerson) could not explain many of
his own pages. But why should he!--he explained them when he discovered
them--the moment before he spoke or wrote them. A rare experience of a
moment at daybreak, when something in nature seems to reveal all
consciousness, cannot be explained at noon. Yet it is a part of the
day's unity. At evening, nature is absorbed by another experience. She
dislikes to explain as much as to repeat. It is conceivable, that what
is unified form to the author, or composer, may of necessity be
formless to his audience. A home-run will cause more unity in the grand
stand than in the season's batting average. If a composer once starts
to compromise, his work will begin to drag on HIM. Before the end is
reached, his inspiration has all gone up in sounds pleasing to his
audience, ugly to him--sacrificed for the first acoustic--an opaque
clarity, a picture painted for its hanging. Easy unity, like easy
virtue, is easier to describe, when judged from its lapses than from
its constancy. When the infidel admits God is great, he means only: "I
am lazy--it is easier to talk than live." Ruskin also says: "Suppose I
like the finite curves best, who shall say I'm right or wrong? No one.
It is simply a question of experience." You may not be able to
experience a symphony, even after twenty performances. Initial
coherence today may be dullness tomorrow probably because formal or
outward unity depends so much on repetition, sequences, antitheses,
paragraphs with inductions and summaries. Macaulay had that kind of
unity. Can you read him today? Emerson rather goes out and shouts: "I'm
thinking of the sun's glory today and I'll let his light shine through
me. I'll say any damn thing that this inspires me with." Perhaps there
are flashes of light, still in cipher, kept there by unity, the code of
which the world has not yet discovered. The unity of one sentence
inspires the unity of the whole--though its physique is as ragged as
the Dolomites.

Intense lights--vague shadows--great pillars in a horizon are difficult
things to nail signboards to. Emerson's outward-inward qualities make
him hard to classify, but easy for some. There are many who like to say
that he--even all the Concord men--are intellectuals. Perhaps--but
intellectuals who wear their brains nearer the heart than some of their
critics. It is as dangerous to determine a characteristic by manner as
by mood. Emerson is a pure intellectual to those who prefer to take him
as literally as they can. There are reformers, and in "the form" lies
their interest, who prefer to stand on the plain, and then insist they
see from the summit. Indolent legs supply the strength of eye for their
inspiration. The intellect is never a whole. It is where the soul finds
things. It is often the only track to the over-values. It appears a
whole--but never becomes one even in the stock exchange, or the
convent, or the laboratory. In the cleverest criminal, it is but a way
to a low ideal. It can never discard the other part of its duality--the
soul or the void where the soul ought to be. So why classify a quality
always so relative that it is more an agency than substance; a quality
that disappears when classified. "The life of the All must stream
through us to make the man and the moment great." A sailor with a
precious cargo doesn't analyze the water. Because Emerson had
generations of Calvinistic sermons in his blood, some cataloguers,
would localize or provincialize him, with the sternness of the old
Puritan mind. They make him THAT, hold him THERE. They lean heavily on
what they find of the above influence in him. They won't follow the
rivers in his thought and the play of his soul. And their cousin
cataloguers put him in another pigeon-hole. They label him "ascetic."
They translate his outward serenity into an impression of severity. But
truth keeps one from being hysterical. Is a demagogue a friend of the
people because he will lie to them to make them cry and raise false
hopes? A search for perfect truths throws out a beauty more spiritual
than sensuous. A sombre dignity of style is often confused by
under-imagination and by surface-sentiment, with austerity. If
Emerson's manner is not always beautiful in accordance with accepted
standards, why not accept a few other standards? He is an ascetic, in
that he refuses to compromise content with manner. But a real ascetic
is an extremist who has but one height. Thus may come the confusion, of
one who says that Emerson carries him high, but then leaves him always
at THAT height--no higher--a confusion, mistaking a latent exultation
for an ascetic reserve. The rules of Thorough Bass can be applied to
his scale of flight no more than they can to the planetary system.
Jadassohn, if Emerson were literally a composer, could no more analyze
his harmony than a guide-to-Boston could. A microscope might show that
he uses chords of the 9th, 11th, or the 99th, but a lens far different
tells us they are used with different aims from those of Debussy.
Emerson is definite in that his art is based on something stronger than
the amusing or at its best the beguiling of a few mortals. If he uses a
sensuous chord, it is not for sensual ears. His harmonies may float, if
the wind blows in that direction, through a voluptuous atmosphere, but
he has not Debussy's fondness for trying to blow a sensuous atmosphere
from his own voluptuous cheeks. And so he is an ascetic! There is a
distance between jowl and soul--and it is not measured by the fraction
of an inch between Concord and Paris. On the other hand, if one thinks
that his harmony contains no dramatic chords, because no theatrical
sound is heard, let him listen to the finale of "Success," or of
"Spiritual Laws," or to some of the poems, "Brahma" or "Sursum Corda,"
for example. Of a truth his Codas often seem to crystallize in a
dramatic, though serene and sustained way, the truths of his
subject--they become more active and intense, but quieter and deeper.

Then there comes along another set of cataloguers. They put him down as
a "classicist," or a romanticist, or an eclectic. Because a prophet is
a child of romanticism--because revelation is classic, because
eclecticism quotes from eclectic Hindu Philosophy, a more sympathetic
cataloguer may say, that Emerson inspires courage of the quieter kind
and delight of the higher kind.

The same well-bound school teacher who told the boys that Thoreau was a
naturalist because he didn't like to work, puts down Emerson as a
"classic," and Hawthorne as a "romantic." A loud voice made this doubly
TRUE and SURE to be on the examination paper. But this teacher of
"truth AND dogma" apparently forgot that there is no such thing as
"classicism or romanticism." One has but to go to the various
definitions of these to know that. If you go to a classic definition
you know what a true classic is, and similarly a "true romantic." But
if you go to both, you have an algebraic formula, x = x, a
cancellation, an apercu, and hence satisfying; if you go to all
definitions you have another formula x > x, a destruction, another
apercu, and hence satisfying. Professor Beers goes to the dictionary
(you wouldn't think a college professor would be as reckless as that).
And so he can say that "romantic" is "pertaining to the style of the
Christian and popular literature of the Middle Ages," a Roman Catholic
mode of salvation (not this definition but having a definition). And so
Prof. B. can say that Walter Scott is a romanticist (and Billy Phelps a
classic--sometimes). But for our part Dick Croker is a classic and job
a romanticist. Another professor, Babbitt by name, links up Romanticism
with Rousseau, and charges against it many of man's troubles. He
somehow likes to mix it up with sin. He throws saucers at it, but in a
scholarly, interesting, sincere, and accurate way. He uncovers a
deformed foot, gives it a name, from which we are allowed to infer that
the covered foot is healthy and named classicism. But no Christian
Scientist can prove that Christ never had a stomach-ache. The
Architecture of Humanism [Footnote: Geoffrey Scott (Constable & Co.)]
tells us that "romanticism consists of ... a poetic sensibility towards
the remote, as such." But is Plato a classic or towards the remote? Is
Classicism a poor relation of time--not of man? Is a thing classic or
romantic because it is or is not passed by that biologic--that
indescribable stream-of-change going on in all life? Let us settle the
point for "good," and say that a thing is classic if it is thought of
in terms of the past and romantic if thought of in terms of the
future--and a thing thought of in terms of the present is--well, that
is impossible! Hence, we allow ourselves to say, that Emerson is
neither a classic or romantic but both--and both not only at different
times in one essay, but at the same time in one sentence--in one word.
And must we admit it, so is everyone. If you don't believe it, there
must be some true definition you haven't seen. Chopin shows a few
things that Bach forgot--but he is not eclectic, they say. Brahms shows
many things that Bach did remember, so he is an eclectic, they say.
Leoncavallo writes pretty verses and Palestrina is a priest, and
Confucius inspires Scriabin. A choice is freedom. Natural selection is
but one of Nature's tunes. "All melodious poets shall be hoarse as
street ballads, when once the penetrating keynote of nature and spirit
is sounded--the earth-beat, sea-beat, heart-beat, which make the tune
to which the sun rolls, and the globule of blood and the sap of the
trees."

An intuitive sense of values, tends to make Emerson use social,
political, and even economic phenomena, as means of expression, as the
accidental notes in his scale--rather than as ends, even lesser ends.
In the realization that they are essential parts of the greater values,
he does not confuse them with each other. He remains undisturbed except
in rare instances, when the lower parts invade and seek to displace the
higher. He was not afraid to say that "there are laws which should not
be too well obeyed." To him, slavery was not a social or a political or
an economic question, nor even one of morals or of ethics, but one of
universal spiritual freedom only. It mattered little what party, or
what platform, or what law of commerce governed men. Was man governing
himself? Social error and virtue were but relative. This habit of not
being hindered by using, but still going beyond the great truths of
living, to the greater truths of life gave force to his influence over
the materialists. Thus he seems to us more a regenerator than a
reformer--more an interpreter of life's reflexes than of life's facts,
perhaps. Here he appears greater than Voltaire or Rousseau and helped,
perhaps, by the centrality of his conceptions, he could arouse the
deeper spiritual and moral emotions, without causing his listeners to
distort their physical ones. To prove that mind is over matter, he
doesn't place matter over mind. He is not like the man who, because he
couldn't afford both, gave up metaphysics for an automobile, and when
he ran over a man blamed metaphysics. He would not have us get
over-excited about physical disturbance but have it accepted as a part
of any progress in culture, moral, spiritual or aesthetic. If a poet
retires to the mountain-side, to avoid the vulgar unculture of men, and
their physical disturbance, so that he may better catch a nobler theme
for his symphony, Emerson tells him that "man's culture can spare
nothing, wants all material, converts all impediments into instruments,
all enemies into power." The latest product of man's culture--the
aeroplane, then sails o'er the mountain and instead of an
inspiration--a spray of tobacco-juice falls on the poet. "Calm
yourself, Poet!" says Emerson, "culture will convert furies into muses
and hells into benefit. This wouldn't have befallen you if it hadn't
been for the latest transcendent product of the genius of culture" (we
won't say what kind), a consummation of the dreams of poets, from David
to Tennyson. Material progress is but a means of expression. Realize
that man's coarseness has its future and will also be refined in the
gradual uprise. Turning the world upside down may be one of its lesser
incidents. It is the cause, seldom the effect that interests Emerson.
He can help the cause--the effect must help itself. He might have said
to those who talk knowingly about the cause of war--or of the last war,
and who would trace it down through long vistas of cosmic, political,
moral evolution and what not--he might say that the cause of it was as
simple as that of any dogfight--the "hog-mind" of the minority against
the universal mind, the majority. The un-courage of the former fears to
believe in the innate goodness of mankind. The cause is always the
same, the effect different by chance; it is as easy for a hog, even a
stupid one, to step on a box of matches under a tenement with a
thousand souls, as under an empty bird-house. The many kindly burn up
for the few; for the minority is selfish and the majority generous. The
minority has ruled the world for physical reasons. The physical reasons
are being removed by this "converting culture." Webster will not much
longer have to grope for the mind of his constituency. The
majority--the people--will need no intermediary. Governments will pass
from the representative to the direct. The hog-mind is the principal
thing that is making this transition slow. The biggest prop to the
hog-mind is pride--pride in property and the power property gives.
Ruskin backs this up--"it is at the bottom of all great mistakes; other
passions do occasional good, but whenever pride puts in its word ... it
is all over with the artist." The hog-mind and its handmaidens in
disorder, superficial brightness, fundamental dullness, then cowardice
and suspicion--all a part of the minority (the non-people) the
antithesis of everything called soul, spirit, Christianity, truth,
freedom--will give way more and more to the great primal truths--that
there is more good than evil, that God is on the side of the majority
(the people)--that he is not enthusiastic about the minority (the
non-people)--that he has made men greater than man, that he has made
the universal mind and the over-soul greater and a part of the
individual mind and soul--that he has made the Divine a part of all.

Again, if a picture in economics is before him, Emerson plunges down to
the things that ARE because they are BETTER than they are. If there is
a row, which there usually is, between the ebb and flood tide, in the
material ocean--for example, between the theory of the present order of
competition, and of attractive and associated labor, he would
sympathize with Ricardo, perhaps, that labor is the measure of value,
but "embrace, as do generous minds, the proposition of labor shared by
all." He would go deeper than political economics, strain out the
self-factor from both theories, and make the measure of each pretty
much the same, so that the natural (the majority) would win, but not to
the disadvantage of the minority (the artificial) because this has
disappeared--it is of the majority. John Stuart Mill's political
economy is losing value because it was written by a mind more "a
banker's" than a "poet's." The poet knows that there is no such thing
as the perpetual law of supply and demand, perhaps not of demand and
supply--or of the wage-fund, or price-level, or increments earned or
unearned; and that the existence of personal or public property may not
prove the existence of God.

Emerson seems to use the great definite interests of humanity to
express the greater, indefinite, spiritual values--to fulfill what he
can in his realms of revelation. Thus, it seems that so close a
relation exists between his content and expression, his substance and
manner, that if he were more definite in the latter he would lose power
in the former,--perhaps some of those occasional flashes would have
been unexpressed--flashes that have gone down through the world and
will flame on through the ages--flashes that approach as near the
Divine as Beethoven in his most inspired moments--flashes of
transcendent beauty, of such universal import, that they may bring, of
a sudden, some intimate personal experience, and produce the same
indescribable effect that comes in rare instances, to men, from some
common sensation. In the early morning of a Memorial Day, a boy is
awakened by martial music--a village band is marching down the street,
and as the strains of Reeves' majestic Seventh Regiment March come
nearer and nearer, he seems of a sudden translated--a moment of vivid
power comes, a consciousness of material nobility, an exultant
something gleaming with the possibilities of this life, an assurance
that nothing is impossible, and that the whole world lies at his feet.
But as the band turns the corner, at the soldiers' monument, and the
march steps of the Grand Army become fainter and fainter, the boy's
vision slowly vanishes--his "world" becomes less and less probable--but
the experience ever lies within him in its reality. Later in life, the
same boy hears the Sabbath morning bell ringing out from the white
steeple at the "Center," and as it draws him to it, through the autumn
fields of sumac and asters, a Gospel hymn of simple devotion comes out
to him--"There's a wideness in God's mercy"--an instant suggestion of
that Memorial Day morning comes--but the moment is of deeper
import--there is no personal exultation--no intimate world vision--no
magnified personal hope--and in their place a profound sense of a
spiritual truth,--a sin within reach of forgiveness--and as the hymn
voices die away, there lies at his feet--not the world, but the figure
of the Saviour--he sees an unfathomable courage, an immortality for the
lowest, the vastness in humility, the kindness of the human heart,
man's noblest strength, and he knows that God is nothing--nothing but
love! Whence cometh the wonder of a moment? From sources we know not.
But we do know that from obscurity, and from this higher Orpheus come
measures of sphere melodies [note: Paraphrased from a passage in Sartor
Resartus.] flowing in wild, native tones, ravaging the souls of men,
flowing now with thousand-fold accompaniments and rich symphonies
through all our hearts; modulating and divinely leading them.


3


What is character? In how far does it sustain the soul or the soul it?
Is it a part of the soul? And then--what is the soul? Plato knows but
cannot tell us. Every new-born man knows, but no one tells us. "Nature
will not be disposed of easily. No power of genius has ever yet had the
smallest success in explaining existence. The perfect enigma remains."
As every blind man sees the sun, so character may be the part of the
soul we, the blind, can see, and then have the right to imagine that
the soul is each man's share of God, and character the muscle which
tries to reveal its mysteries--a kind of its first visible
radiance--the right to know that it is the voice which is always
calling the pragmatist a fool.

At any rate, it can be said that Emerson's character has much to do
with his power upon us. Men who have known nothing of his life, have
borne witness to this. It is directly at the root of his substance, and
affects his manner only indirectly. It gives the sincerity to the
constant spiritual hopefulness we are always conscious of, and which
carries with it often, even when the expression is somber, a note of
exultation in the victories of "the innate virtues" of man. And it is
this, perhaps, that makes us feel his courage--not a self-courage, but
a sympathetic one--courageous even to tenderness. It is the open
courage of a kind heart, of not forcing opinions--a thing much needed
when the cowardly, underhanded courage of the fanatic would FORCE
opinion. It is the courage of believing in freedom, per se, rather than
of trying to force everyone to SEE that you believe in it--the courage
of the willingness to be reformed, rather than of reforming--the
courage teaching that sacrifice is bravery, and force, fear. The
courage of righteous indignation, of stammering eloquence, of spiritual
insight, a courage ever contracting or unfolding a philosophy as it
grows--a courage that would make the impossible possible. Oliver
Wendell Holmes says that Emerson attempted the impossible in the
Over-Soul--"an overflow of spiritual imagination." But he (Emerson)
accomplished the impossible in attempting it, and still leaving it
impossible. A courageous struggle to satisfy, as Thoreau says, "Hunger
rather than the palate"--the hunger of a lifetime sometimes by one
meal. His essay on the Pre-Soul (which he did not write) treats of that
part of the over-soul's influence on unborn ages, and attempts the
impossible only when it stops attempting it.

Like all courageous souls, the higher Emerson soars, the more lowly he
becomes. "Do you think the porter and the cook have no experiences, no
wonders for you? Everyone knows as much as the Savant." To some, the
way to be humble is to admonish the humble, not learn from them.
Carlyle would have Emerson teach by more definite signs, rather than
interpret his revelations, or shall we say preach? Admitting all the
inspiration and help that Sartor Resartus has given in spite of its
vaudeville and tragic stages, to many young men getting under way in
the life of tailor or king, we believe it can be said (but very broadly
said) that Emerson, either in the first or second series of essays,
taken as a whole, gives, it seems to us, greater inspiration, partly
because his manner is less didactic, less personally suggestive,
perhaps less clearly or obviously human than Carlyle's. How direct this
inspiration is is a matter of personal viewpoint, temperament, perhaps
inheritance. Augustine Birrell says he does not feel it--and he seems
not to even indirectly. Apparently "a non-sequacious author" can't
inspire him, for Emerson seems to him a "little thin and vague." Is
Emerson or the English climate to blame for this? He, Birrell, says a
really great author dissipates all fears as to his staying power.
(Though fears for our staying-power, not Emerson's, is what we would
like dissipated.) Besides, around a really great author, there are no
fears to dissipate. "A wise author never allows his reader's mind to be
at large," but Emerson is not a wise author. His essay on Prudence has
nothing to do with prudence, for to be wise and prudent he must put
explanation first, and let his substance dissolve because of it. "How
carefully," says Birrell again, "a really great author like Dr. Newman,
or M. Renan, explains to you what he is going to do, and how he is
going to do it." Personally we like the chance of having a hand in the
"explaining." We prefer to look at flowers, but not through a botany,
for it seems that if we look at them alone, we see a beauty of Nature's
poetry, a direct gift from the Divine, and if we look at botany alone,
we see the beauty of Nature's intellect, a direct gift of the
Divine--if we look at both together, we see nothing.

Thus it seems that Carlyle and Birrell would have it that courage and
humility have something to do with "explanation"--and that it is not "a
respect for all"--a faith in the power of "innate virtue" to perceive
by "relativeness rather than penetration"--that causes Emerson to
withhold explanation to a greater degree than many writers. Carlyle
asks for more utility, and Birrell for more inspiration. But we like to
believe that it is the height of Emerson's character, evidenced
especially in his courage and humility that shades its quality, rather
than that its virtue is less--that it is his height that will make him
more and more valuable and more and more within the reach of
all--whether it be by utility, inspiration, or other needs of the human
soul.

Cannot some of the most valuable kinds of utility and inspiration come
from humility in its highest and purest forms? For is not the truest
kind of humility a kind of glorified or transcendent democracy--the
practicing it rather than the talking it--the not-wanting to level all
finite things, but the being willing to be leveled towards the
infinite? Until humility produces that frame of mind and spirit in the
artist can his audience gain the greatest kind of utility and
inspiration, which might be quite invisible at first? Emerson realizes
the value of "the many,"--that the law of averages has a divine source.
He recognizes the various life-values in reality--not by reason of
their closeness or remoteness, but because he sympathizes with men who
live them, and the majority do. "The private store of reason is not
great--would that there were a public store for man," cries Pascal, but
there is, says Emerson, it is the universal mind, an institution
congenital with the common or over-soul. Pascal is discouraged, for he
lets himself be influenced by surface political and religious history
which shows the struggle of the group, led by an individual, rather
than that of the individual led by himself--a struggle as much
privately caused as privately led. The main-path of all social progress
has been spiritual rather than intellectual in character, but the many
bypaths of individual-materialism, though never obliterating the
highway, have dimmed its outlines and caused travelers to confuse the
colors along the road. A more natural way of freeing the congestion in
the benefits of material progress will make it less difficult for the
majority to recognize the true relation between the important spiritual
and religious values and the less important intellectual and economic
values. As the action of the intellect and universal mind becomes more
and more identical, the clearer will the relation of all values become.
But for physical reasons, the group has had to depend upon the
individual as leaders, and the leaders with few exceptions restrained
the universal mind--they trusted to the "private store," but now,
thanks to the lessons of evolution, which Nature has been teaching men
since and before the days of Socrates, the public store of reason is
gradually taking the place of the once-needed leader. From the Chaldean
tablet to the wireless message this public store has been wonderfully
opened. The results of these lessons, the possibilities they are
offering for ever coordinating the mind of humanity, the culmination of
this age-instruction, are seen today in many ways. Labor Federation,
Suffrage Extension, are two instances that come to mind among the many.
In these manifestations, by reason of tradition, or the bad-habit part
of tradition, the hog-mind of the few (the minority), comes in play.
The possessors of this are called leaders, but even these "thick-skins"
are beginning to see that the MOVEMENT is the leader, and that they are
only clerks. Broadly speaking, the effects evidenced in the political
side of history have so much of the physical because the causes have
been so much of the physical. As a result the leaders for the most part
have been under-average men, with skins thick, wits slick, and hands
quick with under-values, otherwise they would not have become leaders.
But the day of leaders, as such, is gradually closing--the people are
beginning to lead themselves--the public store of reason is slowly
being opened--the common universal mind and the common over-soul is
slowly but inevitably coming into its own. "Let a man believe in God,
not in names and places and persons. Let the great soul incarnated in
some poor ... sad and simple Joan, go out to service and sweep chimneys
and scrub floors ... its effulgent day beams cannot be muffled..." and
then "to sweep and scrub will instantly appear supreme and beautiful
actions ... and all people will get brooms and mops." Perhaps, if all of
Emerson--his works and his life--were to be swept away, and nothing of
him but the record of the following incident remained to men--the
influence of his soul would still be great. A working woman after
coming from one of his lectures said: "I love to go to hear Emerson,
not because I understand him, but because he looks as though he thought
everybody was as good as he was." Is it not the courage--the spiritual
hopefulness in his humility that makes this story possible and true? Is
it not this trait in his character that sets him above all creeds--that
gives him inspired belief in the common mind and soul? Is it not this
courageous universalism that gives conviction to his prophecy and that
makes his symphonies of revelation begin and end with nothing but the
strength and beauty of innate goodness in man, in Nature and in God,
the greatest and most inspiring theme of Concord Transcendental
Philosophy, as we hear it.

And it is from such a world-compelling theme and from such vantage
ground, that Emerson rises to almost perfect freedom of action, of
thought and of soul, in any direction and to any height. A vantage
ground, somewhat vaster than Schelling's conception of transcendental
philosophy--"a philosophy of Nature become subjective." In Concord it
includes the objective and becomes subjective to nothing but freedom
and the absolute law. It is this underlying courage of the purest
humility that gives Emerson that outward aspect of serenity which is
felt to so great an extent in much of his work, especially in his codas
and perorations. And within this poised strength, we are conscious of
that "original authentic fire" which Emerson missed in Shelley--we are
conscious of something that is not dispassionate, something that is at
times almost turbulent--a kind of furious calm lying deeply in the
conviction of the eventual triumph of the soul and its union with God!

Let us place the transcendent Emerson where he, himself, places Milton,
in Wordsworth's apostrophe: "Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
so didst thou travel on life's common way in cheerful Godliness."

The Godliness of spiritual courage and hopefulness--these fathers of
faith rise to a glorified peace in the depth of his greater
perorations. There is an "oracle" at the beginning of the Fifth
Symphony--in those four notes lies one of Beethoven's greatest
messages. We would place its translation above the relentlessness of
fate knocking at the door, above the greater human-message of destiny,
and strive to bring it towards the spiritual message of Emerson's
revelations--even to the "common heart" of Concord--the Soul of
humanity knocking at the door of the Divine mysteries, radiant in the
faith that it will be opened--and the human become the Divine!



III--Hawthorne


The substance of Hawthorne is so dripping wet with the supernatural,
the phantasmal, the mystical--so surcharged with adventures, from the
deeper picturesque to the illusive fantastic, one unconsciously finds
oneself thinking of him as a poet of greater imaginative impulse than
Emerson or Thoreau. He was not a greater poet possibly than they--but a
greater artist. Not only the character of his substance, but the care
in his manner throws his workmanship, in contrast to theirs, into a
kind of bas-relief. Like Poe he quite naturally and unconsciously
reaches out over his subject to his reader. His mesmerism seeks to
mesmerize us--beyond Zenobia's sister. But he is too great an artist to
show his hand "in getting his audience," as Poe and Tschaikowsky
occasionally do. His intellectual muscles are too strong to let him
become over-influenced, as Ravel and Stravinsky seem to be by the
morbidly fascinating--a kind of false beauty obtained by artistic
monotony. However, we cannot but feel that he would weave his spell
over us--as would the Grimms and Aesop. We feel as much under magic as
the "Enchanted Frog." This is part of the artist's business. The effect
is a part of his art-effort in its inception. Emerson's substance and
even his manner has little to do with a designed effect--his
thunderbolts or delicate fragments are flashed out regardless--they may
knock us down or just spatter us--it matters little to him--but
Hawthorne is more considerate; that is, he is more artistic, as men say.

Hawthorne may be more noticeably indigenous or may have more local
color, perhaps more national color than his Concord contemporaries. But
the work of anyone who is somewhat more interested in psychology than
in transcendental philosophy, will weave itself around individuals and
their personalities. If the same anyone happens to live in Salem, his
work is likely to be colored by the Salem wharves and Salem witches. If
the same anyone happens to live in the "Old Manse" near the Concord
Battle Bridge, he is likely "of a rainy day to betake himself to the
huge garret," the secrets of which he wonders at, "but is too reverent
of their dust and cobwebs to disturb." He is likely to "bow below the
shriveled canvas of an old (Puritan) clergyman in wig and gown--the
parish priest of a century ago--a friend of Whitefield." He is likely
to come under the spell of this reverend Ghost who haunts the "Manse"
and as it rains and darkens and the sky glooms through the dusty attic
windows, he is likely "to muse deeply and wonderingly upon the
humiliating fact that the works of man's intellect decay like those of
his hands" ... "that thought grows moldy," and as the garret is in
Massachusetts, the "thought" and the "mold" are likely to be quite
native. When the same anyone puts his poetry into novels rather than
essays, he is likely to have more to say about the life around
him--about the inherited mystery of the town--than a poet of philosophy
is.

In Hawthorne's usual vicinity, the atmosphere was charged with the
somber errors and romance of eighteenth century New England,--ascetic
or noble New England as you like. A novel, of necessity, nails an
art-effort down to some definite part or parts of the earth's
surface--the novelist's wagon can't always be hitched to a star. To say
that Hawthorne was more deeply interested than some of the other
Concord writers--Emerson, for example--in the idealism peculiar to his
native land (in so far as such idealism of a country can be conceived
of as separate from the political) would be as unreasoning as to hold
that he was more interested in social progress than Thoreau, because he
was in the consular service and Thoreau was in no one's service--or
that the War Governor of Massachusetts was a greater patriot than
Wendell Phillips, who was ashamed of all political parties. Hawthorne's
art was true and typically American--as is the art of all men living in
America who believe in freedom of thought and who live wholesome lives
to prove it, whatever their means of expression.

Any comprehensive conception of Hawthorne, either in words or music,
must have for its basic theme something that has to do with the
influence of sin upon the conscience--something more than the Puritan
conscience, but something which is permeated by it. In this relation he
is wont to use what Hazlitt calls the "moral power of imagination."
Hawthorne would try to spiritualize a guilty conscience. He would sing
of the relentlessness of guilt, the inheritance of guilt, the shadow of
guilt darkening innocent posterity. All of its sins and morbid horrors,
its specters, its phantasmas, and even its hellish hopelessness play
around his pages, and vanishing between the lines are the less guilty
Elves of the Concord Elms, which Thoreau and Old Man Alcott may have
felt, but knew not as intimately as Hawthorne. There is often a
pervading melancholy about Hawthorne, as Faguet says of de Musset
"without posture, without noise but penetrating." There is at times the
mysticism and serenity of the ocean, which Jules Michelet sees in "its
horizon rather than in its waters." There is a sensitiveness to
supernatural sound waves. Hawthorne feels the mysteries and tries to
paint them rather than explain them--and here, some may say that he is
wiser in a more practical way and so more artistic than Emerson.
Perhaps so, but no greater in the deeper ranges and profound mysteries
of the interrelated worlds of human and spiritual life.

This fundamental part of Hawthorne is not attempted in our music (the
2nd movement of the series) which is but an "extended fragment" trying
to suggest some of his wilder, fantastical adventures into the
half-childlike, half-fairylike phantasmal realms. It may have something
to do with the children's excitement on that "frosty Berkshire morning,
and the frost imagery on the enchanted hall window" or something to do
with "Feathertop," the "Scarecrow," and his "Looking Glass" and the
little demons dancing around his pipe bowl; or something to do with the
old hymn tune that haunts the church and sings only to those in the
churchyard, to protect them from secular noises, as when the circus
parade comes down Main Street; or something to do with the concert at
the Stamford camp meeting, or the "Slave's Shuffle"; or something to do
with the Concord he-nymph, or the "Seven Vagabonds," or "Circe's
Palace," or something else in the wonderbook--not something that
happens, but the way something happens; or something to do with the
"Celestial Railroad," or "Phoebe's Garden," or something personal,
which tries to be "national" suddenly at twilight, and universal
suddenly at midnight; or something about the ghost of a man who never
lived, or about something that never will happen, or something else
that is not.



IV--"The Alcotts"


If the dictagraph had been perfected in Bronson Alcott's time, he might
now be a great writer. As it is, he goes down as Concord's greatest
talker. "Great expecter," says Thoreau; "great feller," says Sam
Staples, "for talkin' big ... but his daughters is the gals
though--always DOIN' somethin'." Old Man Alcott, however, was usually
"doin' somethin'" within. An internal grandiloquence made him melodious
without; an exuberant, irrepressible, visionary absorbed with
philosophy AS such; to him it was a kind of transcendental business,
the profits of which supported his inner man rather than his family.
Apparently his deep interest in spiritual physics, rather than
metaphysics, gave a kind of hypnotic mellifluous effect to his voice
when he sang his oracles; a manner something of a cross between an
inside pompous self-assertion and an outside serious benevolence. But
he was sincere and kindly intentioned in his eagerness to extend what
he could of the better influence of the philosophic world as he saw it.
In fact, there is a strong didactic streak in both father and daughter.
Louisa May seldom misses a chance to bring out the moral of a homely
virtue. The power of repetition was to them a natural means of
illustration. It is said that the elder Alcott, while teaching school,
would frequently whip himself when the scholars misbehaved, to show
that the Divine Teacher-God-was pained when his children of the earth
were bad. Quite often the boy next to the bad boy was punished, to show
how sin involved the guiltless. And Miss Alcott is fond of working her
story around, so that she can better rub in a moral precept--and the
moral sometimes browbeats the story. But with all the elder Alcott's
vehement, impracticable, visionary qualities, there was a sturdiness
and a courage--at least, we like to think so. A Yankee boy who would
cheerfully travel in those days, when distances were long and
unmotored, as far from Connecticut as the Carolinas, earning his way by
peddling, laying down his pack to teach school when opportunity
offered, must possess a basic sturdiness. This was apparently not very
evident when he got to preaching his idealism. An incident in Alcott's
life helps confirm a theory--not a popular one--that men accustomed to
wander around in the visionary unknown are the quickest and strongest
when occasion requires ready action of the lower virtues. It often
appears that a contemplative mind is more capable of action than an
actively objective one. Dr. Emerson says: "It is good to know that it
has been recorded of Alcott, the benign idealist, that when the Rev.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, heading the rush on the U.S. Court House in
Boston, to rescue a fugitive slave, looked back for his following at
the court-room door, only the apostolic philosopher was there cane in
hand." So it seems that his idealism had some substantial virtues, even
if he couldn't make a living.

The daughter does not accept the father as a prototype--she seems to
have but few of her father's qualities "in female." She supported the
family and at the same time enriched the lives of a large part of young
America, starting off many little minds with wholesome thoughts and
many little hearts with wholesome emotions. She leaves
memory-word-pictures of healthy, New England childhood days,--pictures
which are turned to with affection by middle-aged children,--pictures,
that bear a sentiment, a leaven, that middle-aged America needs
nowadays more than we care to admit.

Concord village, itself, reminds one of that common virtue lying at the
height and root of all the Concord divinities. As one walks down the
broad-arched street, passing the white house of Emerson--ascetic guard
of a former prophetic beauty--he comes presently beneath the old elms
overspreading the Alcott house. It seems to stand as a kind of homely
but beautiful witness of Concord's common virtue--it seems to bear a
consciousness that its past is LIVING, that the "mosses of the Old
Manse" and the hickories of Walden are not far away. Here is the home
of the "Marches"--all pervaded with the trials and happiness of the
family and telling, in a simple way, the story of "the richness of not
having." Within the house, on every side, lie remembrances of what
imagination can do for the better amusement of fortunate children who
have to do for themselves-much-needed lessons in these days of
automatic, ready-made, easy entertainment which deaden rather than
stimulate the creative faculty. And there sits the little old
spinet-piano Sophia Thoreau gave to the Alcott children, on which Beth
played the old Scotch airs, and played at the Fifth Symphony.

There is a commonplace beauty about "Orchard House"--a kind of
spiritual sturdiness underlying its quaint picturesqueness--a kind of
common triad of the New England homestead, whose overtones tell us that
there must have been something aesthetic fibered in the Puritan
severity--the self-sacrificing part of the ideal--a value that seems to
stir a deeper feeling, a stronger sense of being nearer some perfect
truth than a Gothic cathedral or an Etruscan villa. All around you,
under the Concord sky, there still floats the influence of that human
faith melody, transcendent and sentimental enough for the enthusiast or
the cynic respectively, reflecting an innate hope--a common interest in
common things and common men--a tune the Concord bards are ever
playing, while they pound away at the immensities with a Beethovenlike
sublimity, and with, may we say, a vehemence and perseverance--for that
part of greatness is not so difficult to emulate.

We dare not attempt to follow the philosophic raptures of Bronson
Alcott--unless you will assume that his apotheosis will show how
"practical" his vision in this world would be in the next. And so we
won't try to reconcile the music sketch of the Alcotts with much
besides the memory of that home under the elms--the Scotch songs and
the family hymns that were sung at the end of each day--though there
may be an attempt to catch something of that common sentiment (which we
have tried to suggest above)-a strength of hope that never gives way to
despair--a conviction in the power of the common soul which, when all
is said and done, may be as typical as any theme of Concord and its
transcendentalists.



V--Thoreau


Thoreau was a great musician, not because he played the flute but
because he did not have to go to Boston to hear "the Symphony." The
rhythm of his prose, were there nothing else, would determine his value
as a composer. He was divinely conscious of the enthusiasm of Nature,
the emotion of her rhythms and the harmony of her solitude. In this
consciousness he sang of the submission to Nature, the religion of
contemplation, and the freedom of simplicity--a philosophy
distinguishing between the complexity of Nature which teaches freedom,
and the complexity of materialism which teaches slavery. In music, in
poetry, in all art, the truth as one sees it must be given in terms
which bear some proportion to the inspiration. In their greatest
moments the inspiration of both Beethoven and Thoreau express profound
truths and deep sentiment, but the intimate passion of it, the storm
and stress of it, affected Beethoven in such a way that he could not
but be ever showing it and Thoreau that he could not easily expose it.
They were equally imbued with it, but with different results. A
difference in temperament had something to do with this, together with
a difference in the quality of expression between the two arts. "Who
that has heard a strain of music feared lest he would speak
extravagantly forever," says Thoreau. Perhaps music is the art of
speaking extravagantly. Herbert Spencer says that some men, as for
instance Mozart, are so peculiarly sensitive to emotion ... that music is
to them but a continuation not only of the expression but of the actual
emotion, though the theory of some more modern thinkers in the
philosophy of art doesn't always bear this out. However, there is no
doubt that in its nature music is predominantly subjective and tends to
subjective expression, and poetry more objective tending to objective
expression. Hence the poet when his muse calls for a deeper feeling
must invert this order, and he may be reluctant to do so as these
depths often call for an intimate expression which the physical looks
of the words may repel. They tend to reveal the nakedness of his soul
rather than its warmth. It is not a matter of the relative value of the
aspiration, or a difference between subconsciousness and consciousness
but a difference in the arts themselves; for example, a composer may
not shrink from having the public hear his "love letter in tones,"
while a poet may feel sensitive about having everyone read his "letter
in words." When the object of the love is mankind the sensitiveness is
changed only in degree.

But the message of Thoreau, though his fervency may be inconstant and
his human appeal not always direct, is, both in thought and spirit, as
universal as that of any man who ever wrote or sang--as universal as it
is nontemporaneous--as universal as it is free from the measure of
history, as "solitude is free from the measure of the miles of space
that intervene between man and his fellows." In spite of the fact that
Henry James (who knows almost everything) says that "Thoreau is more
than provincial--that he is parochial," let us repeat that Henry
Thoreau, in respect to thought, sentiment, imagination, and soul, in
respect to every element except that of place of physical being--a
thing that means so much to some--is as universal as any personality in
literature. That he said upon being shown a specimen grass from Iceland
that the same species could be found in Concord is evidence of his
universality, not of his parochialism. He was so universal that he did
not need to travel around the world to PROVE it. "I have more of God,
they more of the road." "It is not worth while to go around the world
to count the cats in Zanzibar." With Marcus Aurelius, if he had seen
the present he had seen all, from eternity and all time forever.

Thoreau's susceptibility to natural sounds was probably greater than
that of many practical musicians. True, this appeal is mainly through
the sensational element which Herbert Spencer thinks the predominant
beauty of music. Thoreau seems able to weave from this source some
perfect transcendental symphonies. Strains from the Orient get the best
of some of the modern French music but not of Thoreau. He seems more
interested in than influenced by Oriental philosophy. He admires its
ways of resignation and self-contemplation but he doesn't contemplate
himself in the same way. He often quotes from the Eastern scriptures
passages which were they his own he would probably omit, i.e., the
Vedas say "all intelligences awake with the morning." This seems
unworthy of "accompanying the undulations of celestial music" found on
this same page, in which an "ode to morning" is sung--"the awakening to
newly acquired forces and aspirations from within to a higher life than
we fell asleep from ... for all memorable events transpire in the morning
time and in the morning atmosphere." Thus it is not the whole tone
scale of the Orient but the scale of a Walden morning--"music in single
strains," as Emerson says, which inspired many of the polyphonies and
harmonies that come to us through his poetry. Who can be forever
melancholy "with Aeolian music like this"?

This is but one of many ways in which Thoreau looked to Nature for his
greatest inspirations. In her he found an analogy to the Fundamental of
Transcendentalism. The "innate goodness" of Nature is or can be a moral
influence; Mother Nature, if man will but let her, will keep him
straight--straight spiritually and so morally and even mentally. If he
will take her as a companion, and teacher, and not as a duty or a
creed, she will give him greater thrills and teach him greater truths
than man can give or teach--she will reveal mysteries that mankind has
long concealed. It was the soul of Nature not natural history that
Thoreau was after. A naturalist's mind is one predominantly scientific,
more interested in the relation of a flower to other flowers than its
relation to any philosophy or anyone's philosophy. A transcendent love
of Nature and writing "Rhus glabra" after sumac doesn't necessarily
make a naturalist. It would seem that although thorough in observation
(not very thorough according to Mr. Burroughs) and with a keen
perception of the specific, a naturalist--inherently--was exactly what
Thoreau was not. He seems rather to let Nature put him under her
microscope than to hold her under his. He was too fond of Nature to
practice vivisection upon her. He would have found that painful, "for
was he not a part with her?" But he had this trait of a naturalist,
which is usually foreign to poets, even great ones; he observed acutely
even things that did not particularly interest him--a useful natural
gift rather than a virtue.

The study of Nature may tend to make one dogmatic, but the love of
Nature surely does not. Thoreau no more than Emerson could be said to
have compounded doctrines. His thinking was too broad for that. If
Thoreau's was a religion of Nature, as some say,--and by that they
mean that through Nature's influence man is brought to a deeper
contemplation, to a more spiritual self-scrutiny, and thus closer to
God,--it had apparently no definite doctrines. Some of his theories
regarding natural and social phenomena and his experiments in the art
of living are certainly not doctrinal in form, and if they are in
substance it didn't disturb Thoreau and it needn't us... "In proportion
as he simplifies his life the laws of the universe will appear less
complex and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor
weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air your work need
not be lost; that is where they should be, now put the foundations
under them." ... "Then we will love with the license of a higher order
of beings." Is that a doctrine? Perhaps. At any rate, between the lines
of some such passage as this lie some of the fountain heads that water
the spiritual fields of his philosophy and the seeds from which they
are sown (if indeed his whole philosophy is but one spiritual garden).
His experiments, social and economic, are a part of its cultivation and
for the harvest--and its transmutation, he trusts to moments of
inspiration--"only what is thought, said, and done at a certain rare
coincidence is good."

Thoreau's experiment at Walden was, broadly speaking, one of these
moments. It stands out in the casual and popular opinion as a kind of
adventure--harmless and amusing to some, significant and important to
others; but its significance lies in the fact that in trying to
practice an ideal he prepared his mind so that it could better bring
others "into the Walden-state-of-mind." He did not ask for a literal
approval, or in fact for any approval. "I would not stand between any
man and his genius." He would have no one adopt his manner of life,
unless in doing so he adopts his own--besides, by that time "I may have
found a better one." But if he preached hard he practiced harder what
he preached--harder than most men. Throughout Walden a text that he is
always pounding out is "Time." Time for inside work out-of-doors;
preferably out-of-doors, "though you perhaps may have some pleasant,
thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor house." Wherever the
place--time there must be. Time to show the unnecessariness of
necessities which clog up time. Time to contemplate the value of man to
the universe, of the universe to man, man's excuse for being. Time FROM
the demands of social conventions. Time FROM too much labor for some,
which means too much to eat, too much to wear, too much material, too
much materialism for others. Time FROM the "hurry and waste of life."
Time FROM the "St. Vitus Dance." BUT, on the other side of the ledger,
time FOR learning that "there is no safety in stupidity alone." Time
FOR introspection. Time FOR reality. Time FOR expansion. Time FOR
practicing the art, of living the art of living. Thoreau has been
criticized for practicing his policy of expansion by living in a
vacuum--but he peopled that vacuum with a race of beings and
established a social order there, surpassing any of the precepts in
social or political history. "...for he put some things behind and
passed an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws
were around and within him, the old laws were expanded and interpreted
in a more liberal sense and he lived with the license of a higher
order"--a community in which "God was the only President" and "Thoreau
not Webster was His Orator." It is hard to believe that Thoreau really
refused to believe that there was any other life but his own, though he
probably did think that there was not any other life besides his own
for him. Living for society may not always be best accomplished by
living WITH society. "Is there any virtue in a man's skin that you must
touch it?" and the "rubbing of elbows may not bring men's minds closer
together"; or if he were talking through a "worst seller" (magazine)
that "had to put it over" he might say, "forty thousand souls at a ball
game does not, necessarily, make baseball the highest expression of
spiritual emotion." Thoreau, however, is no cynic, either in character
or thought, though in a side glance at himself, he may have held out to
be one; a "cynic in independence," possibly because of his rule laid
down that "self-culture admits of no compromise."

It is conceivable that though some of his philosophy and a good deal of
his personality, in some of its manifestations, have outward colors
that do not seem to harmonize, the true and intimate relations they
bear each other are not affected. This peculiarity, frequently seen in
his attitude towards social-economic problems, is perhaps more
emphasized in some of his personal outbursts. "I love my friends very
much, but I find that it is of no use to go to see them. I hate them
commonly when I am near." It is easier to see what he means than it is
to forgive him for saying it. The cause of this apparent lack of
harmony between philosophy and personality, as far as they can be
separated, may have been due to his refusal "to keep the very delicate
balance" which Mr. Van Doren in his "Critical Study of Thoreau" says
"it is necessary for a great and good man to keep between his public
and private lives, between his own personality and the whole outside
universe of personalities." Somehow one feels that if he had kept this
balance he would have lost "hitting power." Again, it seems that
something of the above depends upon the degree of greatness or
goodness. A very great and especially a very good man has no separate
private and public life. His own personality though not identical with
outside personalities is so clear or can be so clear to them that it
appears identical, and as the world progresses towards its inevitable
perfection this appearance becomes more and more a reality. For the
same reason that all great men now agree, in principle but not in
detail, in so far as words are able to communicate agreement, on the
great fundamental truths. Someone says: "Be specific--what great
fundamentals?" Freedom over slavery; the natural over the artificial;
beauty over ugliness; the spiritual over the material; the goodness of
man; the Godness of man; have been greater if he hadn't written plays.
Some say that a true composer will never write an opera because a truly
brave man will not take a drink to keep up his courage; which is not
the same thing as saying that Shakespeare is not the greatest figure in
all literature; in fact, it is an attempt to say that many novels, most
operas, all Shakespeares, and all brave men and women (rum or no rum)
are among the noblest blessings with which God has endowed
mankind--because, not being perfect, they are perfect examples pointing
to that perfection which nothing yet has attained.

Thoreau's mysticism at times throws him into elusive moods--but an
elusiveness held by a thread to something concrete and specific, for he
had too much integrity of mind for any other kind. In these moments it
is easier to follow his thought than to follow him. Indeed, if he were
always easy to follow, after one had caught up with him, one might find
that it was not Thoreau.

It is, however, with no mystic rod that he strikes at institutional
life. Here again he felt the influence of the great transcendental
doctrine of "innate goodness" in human nature--a reflection of the like
in nature; a philosophic part which, by the way, was a more direct
inheritance in Thoreau than in his brother transcendentalists. For
besides what he received from a native Unitarianism a good part must
have descended to him through his Huguenot blood from the
"eighteenth-century French philosophy." We trace a reason here for his
lack of interest in "the church." For if revealed religion is the path
between God and man's spiritual part--a kind of formal
causeway--Thoreau's highly developed spiritual life felt, apparently
unconsciously, less need of it than most men. But he might have been
more charitable towards those who do need it (and most of us do) if he
had been more conscious of his freedom. Those who look today for the
cause of a seeming deterioration in the influence of the church may
find it in a wider development of this feeling of Thoreau's; that the
need is less because there is more of the spirit of Christianity in the
world today. Another cause for his attitude towards the church as an
institution is one always too common among "the narrow minds" to have
influenced Thoreau. He could have been more generous. He took the arc
for the circle, the exception for the rule, the solitary bad example
for the many good ones. His persistent emphasis on the value of
"example" may excuse this lower viewpoint. "The silent influence of the
example of one sincere life ... has benefited society more than all the
projects devised for its salvation." He has little patience for the
unpracticing preacher. "In some countries a hunting parson is no
uncommon sight. Such a one might make a good shepherd dog but is far
from being a good shepherd." It would have been interesting to have
seen him handle the speculating parson, who takes a good salary--more
per annum than all the disciples had to sustain their bodies during
their whole lives--from a metropolitan religious corporation for
"speculating" on Sunday about the beauty of poverty, who preaches:
"Take no thought (for your life) what ye shall eat or what ye shall
drink nor yet what ye shall put on ... lay not up for yourself treasure
upon earth ... take up thy cross and follow me"; who on Monday becomes a
"speculating" disciple of another god, and by questionable investments,
successful enough to get into the "press," seeks to lay up a treasure
of a million dollars for his old age, as if a million dollars could
keep such a man out of the poor-house. Thoreau might observe that this
one good example of Christian degeneracy undoes all the acts of
regeneracy of a thousand humble five-hundred-dollar country parsons;
that it out-influences the "unconscious influence" of a dozen Dr.
Bushnells if there be that many; that the repentance of this man who
did not "fall from grace" because he never fell into it--that this
unnecessary repentance might save this man's own soul but not
necessarily the souls of the million head-line readers; that repentance
would put this preacher right with the powers that be in this
world--and the next. Thoreau might pass a remark upon this man's
intimacy with God "as if he had a monopoly of the subject"--an intimacy
that perhaps kept him from asking God exactly what his Son meant by the
"camel," the "needle"--to say nothing of the "rich man." Thoreau might
have wondered how this man NAILED DOWN the last plank in HIS bridge to
salvation, by rising to sublime heights of patriotism, in HIS war
against materialism; but would even Thoreau be so unfeeling as to
suggest to this exhorter that HIS salvation might be clinched "if he
would sacrifice his income" (not himself) and come--in to a real
Salvation Army, or that the final triumph, the supreme happiness in
casting aside this mere $10,000 or $20,000 every year must be denied
him--for was he not captain of the ship--must he not stick to his
passengers (in the first cabin--the very first cabin)--not that the
ship was sinking but that he was ... we will go no further. Even Thoreau
would not demand sacrifice for sacrifice sake--no, not even from Nature.

Property from the standpoint of its influence in checking natural
self-expansion and from the standpoint of personal and inherent right
is another institution that comes in for straight and cross-arm jabs,
now to the stomach, now to the head, but seldom sparring for breath.
For does he not say that "wherever a man goes, men will pursue him with
their dirty institutions"? The influence of property, as he saw it, on
morality or immorality and how through this it mayor should influence
"government" is seen by the following: "I am convinced that if all men
were to live as simply as I did, then thieving and robbery would be
unknown. These take place only in communities where some have got more
than is sufficient while others have not enough--

  Nec bella fuerunt,
  Faginus astabat dum
  Scyphus ante dapes--

You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ
punishments? Have virtue and the people will be virtuous." If Thoreau
had made the first sentence read: "If all men were like me and were to
live as simply," etc., everyone would agree with him. We may wonder
here how he would account for some of the degenerate types we are told
about in some of our backwoods and mountain regions. Possibly by
assuming that they are an instance of perversion of the species. That
the little civilizing their forbears experienced rendered these people
more susceptible to the physical than to the spiritual influence of
nature; in other words; if they had been purer naturists, as the Aztecs
for example, they would have been purer men. Instead of turning to any
theory of ours or of Thoreau for the true explanation of this
condition--which is a kind of pseudo-naturalism--for its true diagnosis
and permanent cure, are we not far more certain to find it in the
radiant look of humility, love, and hope in the strong faces of those
inspired souls who are devoting their lives with no little sacrifice to
these outcasts of civilization and nature. In truth, may not mankind
find the solution of its eternal problem--find it after and beyond the
last, most perfect system of wealth distribution which science can ever
devise--after and beyond the last sublime echo of the greatest
socialistic symphonies--after and beyond every transcendent thought and
expression in the simple example of these Christ-inspired souls--be
they Pagan, Gentile, Jew, or angel.

However, underlying the practical or impractical suggestions implied in
the quotation above, which is from the last paragraph of Thoreau's
Village, is the same transcendental theme of "innate goodness." For
this reason there must be no limitation except that which will free
mankind from limitation, and from a perversion of this "innate"
possession: And "property" may be one of the causes of this
perversion--property in the two relations cited above. It is
conceivable that Thoreau, to the consternation of the richest members
of the Bolsheviki and Bourgeois, would propose a policy of liberation,
a policy of a limited personal property right, on the ground that
congestion of personal property tends to limit the progress of the soul
(as well as the progress of the stomach)--letting the economic noise
thereupon take care of itself--for dissonances are becoming
beautiful--and do not the same waters that roar in a storm take care of
the eventual calm? That this limit of property be determined not by the
VOICE of the majority but by the BRAIN of the majority under a
government limited to no national boundaries. "The government of the
world I live in is not framed in after-dinner conversation"--around a
table in a capital city, for there is no capital--a government of
principles not parties; of a few fundamental truths and not of many
political expediencies. A government conducted by virtuous leaders, for
it will be led by all, for all are virtuous, as then their "innate
virtue" will no more be perverted by unnatural institutions. This will
not be a millennium but a practical and possible application of
uncommon common sense. For is it not sense, common or otherwise, for
Nature to want to hand back the earth to those to whom it belongs--that
is, to those who have to live on it? Is it not sense, that the average
brains like the average stomachs will act rightly if they have an equal
amount of the right kind of food to act upon and universal education is
on the way with the right kind of food? Is it not sense then that all
grown men and women (for all are necessary to work out the divine "law
of averages") shall have a direct not an indirect say about the things
that go on in this world?

Some of these attitudes, ungenerous or radical, generous or
conservative (as you will), towards institutions dear to many, have no
doubt given impressions unfavorable to Thoreau's thought and
personality. One hears him called, by some who ought to know what they
say and some who ought not, a crabbed, cold-hearted, sour-faced
Yankee--a kind of a visionary sore-head--a cross-grained, egotistic
recluse,--even non-hearted. But it is easier to make a statement than
prove a reputation. Thoreau may be some of these things to those who
make no distinction between these qualities and the manner which often
comes as a kind of by-product of an intense devotion of a principle or
ideal. He was rude and unfriendly at times but shyness probably had
something to do with that. In spite of a certain self-possession he was
diffident in most company, but, though he may have been subject to
those spells when words do not rise and the mind seems wrapped in a
kind of dull cloth which everyone dumbly stares at, instead of looking
through--he would easily get off a rejoinder upon occasion. When a
party of visitors came to Walden and some one asked Thoreau if he found
it lonely there, he replied: "Only by your help." A remark
characteristic, true, rude, if not witty. The writer remembers hearing
a schoolteacher in English literature dismiss Thoreau (and a half hour
lesson, in which time all of Walden,--its surface--was sailed over) by
saying that this author (he called everyone "author" from Solomon down
to Dr. Parkhurst) "was a kind of a crank who styled himself a
hermit-naturalist and who idled about the woods because he didn't want
to work." Some such stuff is a common conception, though not as common
as it used to be. If this teacher had had more brains, it would have
been a lie. The word idled is the hopeless part of this criticism, or
rather of this uncritical remark. To ask this kind of a man, who plays
all the "choice gems from celebrated composers" literally, always
literally, and always with the loud pedal, who plays all hymns, wrong
notes, right notes, games, people, and jokes literally, and with the
loud pedal, who will die literally and with the loud pedal--to ask this
man to smile even faintly at Thoreau's humor is like casting a pearl
before a coal baron. Emerson implies that there is one thing a genius
must have to be a genius and that is "mother wit." ... "Doctor Johnson,
Milton, Chaucer, and Burns had it. Aunt Mary Moody Emerson has it and
can write scrap letters. Who has it need never write anything but
scraps. Henry Thoreau has it." His humor though a part of this wit is
not always as spontaneous, for it is sometimes pun shape (so is Charles
Lamb's)--but it is nevertheless a kind that can serenely transport us
and which we can enjoy without disturbing our neighbors. If there are
those who think him cold-hearted and with but little human sympathy,
let them read his letters to Emerson's little daughter, or hear Dr.
Emerson tell about the Thoreau home life and the stories of his
boyhood--the ministrations to a runaway slave; or let them ask old Sam
Staples, the Concord sheriff about him. That he "was fond of a few
intimate friends, but cared not one fig for people in the mass," is a
statement made in a school history and which is superficially true. He
cared too much for the masses--too much to let his personality be
"massed"; too much to be unable to realize the futility of wearing his
heart on his sleeve but not of wearing his path to the shore of
"Walden" for future masses to walk over and perchance find the way to
themselves. Some near-satirists are fond of telling us that Thoreau
came so close to Nature that she killed him before he had discovered
her whole secret. They remind us that he died with consumption but
forget that he lived with consumption. And without using much charity,
this can be made to excuse many of his irascible and uncongenial moods.
You to whom that gaunt face seems forbidding--look into the eyes! If he
seems "dry and priggish" to you, Mr. Stevenson, "with little of that
large unconscious geniality of the world's heroes," follow him some
spring morning to Baker Farm, as he "rambles through pine groves ... like
temples, or like fleets at sea, full-rigged, with wavy boughs and
rippling with light so soft and green and shady that the Druids would
have forsaken their oaks to worship in them." Follow him to "the cedar
wood beyond Flint's Pond, where the trees covered with hoary blue
berries, spiring higher and higher, are fit to stand before Valhalla."
Follow him, but not too closely, for you may see little, if you do--"as
he walks in so pure and bright a light gilding its withered grass and
leaves so softly and serenely bright that he thinks he has never bathed
in such a golden flood." Follow him as "he saunters towards the holy
land till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever it has
done, perchance shine into your minds and hearts and light up your
whole lives with a great awakening, light as warm and serene and golden
as on a bankside in autumn." Follow him through the golden flood to the
shore of that "holy land," where he lies dying as men say--dying as
bravely as he lived. You may be near when his stern old aunt in the
duty of her Puritan conscience asks him: "Have you made your peace with
God"? and you may see his kindly smile as he replies, "I did not know
that we had ever quarreled." Moments like these reflect more nobility
and equanimity perhaps than geniality--qualities, however, more
serviceable to world's heroes.

The personal trait that one who has affection for Thoreau may find
worst is a combative streak, in which he too often takes refuge. "An
obstinate elusiveness," almost a "contrary cussedness," as if he would
say, which he didn't: "If a truth about something is not as I think it
ought to be, I'll make it what I think, and it WILL be the truth--but
if you agree with me, then I begin to think it may not be the truth."
The causes of these unpleasant colors (rather than characteristics) are
too easily attributed to a lack of human sympathy or to the assumption
that they are at least symbols of that lack instead of to a
supersensitiveness, magnified at times by ill health and at times by a
subconsciousness of the futility of actually living out his ideals in
this life. It has been said that his brave hopes were unrealized
anywhere in his career--but it is certain that they started to be
realized on or about May 6, 1862, and we doubt if 1920 will end their
fulfillment or his career. But there were many in Concord who knew that
within their village there was a tree of wondrous growth, the shadow of
which--alas, too frequently--was the only part they were allowed to
touch. Emerson was one of these. He was not only deeply conscious of
Thoreau's rare gifts but in the Woodland Notes pays a tribute to a side
of his friend that many others missed. Emerson knew that Thoreau's
sensibilities too often veiled his nobilities, that a self-cultivated
stoicism ever fortified with sarcasm, none the less securely because it
seemed voluntary, covered a warmth of feeling. "His great heart, him a
hermit made." A breadth of heart not easily measured, found only in the
highest type of sentimentalists, the type which does not perpetually
discriminate in favor of mankind. Emerson has much of this sentiment
and touches it when he sings of Nature as "the incarnation of a
thought," when he generously visualizes Thoreau, "standing at the
Walden shore invoking the vision of a thought as it drifts heavenward
into an incarnation of Nature." There is a Godlike patience in
Nature,-in her mists, her trees, her mountains--as if she had a more
abiding faith and a clearer vision than man of the resurrection and
immortality! There comes to memory an old yellow-papered composition of
school-boy days whose peroration closed with "Poor Thoreau; he communed
with nature for forty odd years, and then died." "The forty odd
years,"--we'll still grant that part, but he is over a hundred now, and
maybe, Mr. Lowell, he is more lovable, kindlier, and more radiant with
human sympathy today, than, perchance, you were fifty years ago. It may
be that he is a far stronger, a far greater, an incalculably greater
force in the moral and spiritual fibre of his fellow-countrymen
throughout the world today than you dreamed of fifty years ago. You,
James Russell Lowells! You, Robert Louis Stevensons! You, Mark Van
Dorens! with your literary perception, your power of illumination, your
brilliancy of expression, yea, and with your love of sincerity, you
know your Thoreau, but not my Thoreau--that reassuring and true friend,
who stood by me one "low" day, when the sun had gone down, long, long
before sunset. You may know something of the affection that heart
yearned for but knew it a duty not to grasp; you may know something of
the great human passions which stirred that soul--too deep for animate
expression--you may know all of this, all there is to know about
Thoreau, but you know him not, unless you love him!

And if there shall be a program for our music let it follow his thought
on an autumn day of Indian summer at Walden--a shadow of a thought at
first, colored by the mist and haze over the pond:

  Low anchored cloud,
  Fountain head and
  Source of rivers...
  Dew cloth, dream drapery--
  Drifting meadow of the air....

but this is momentary; the beauty of the day moves him to a certain
restlessness--to aspirations more specific--an eagerness for outward
action, but through it all he is conscious that it is not in keeping
with the mood for this "Day." As the mists rise, there comes a clearer
thought more traditional than the first, a meditation more calm. As he
stands on the side of the pleasant hill of pines and hickories in front
of his cabin, he is still disturbed by a restlessness and goes down the
white-pebbled and sandy eastern shore, but it seems not to lead him
where the thought suggests--he climbs the path along the "bolder
northern" and "western shore, with deep bays indented," and now along
the railroad track, "where the Aeolian harp plays." But his eagerness
throws him into the lithe, springy stride of the specie hunter--the
naturalist--he is still aware of a restlessness; with these faster
steps his rhythm is of shorter span--it is still not the tempo of
Nature, it does not bear the mood that the genius of the day calls for,
it is too specific, its nature is too external, the introspection too
buoyant, and he knows now that he must let Nature flow through him and
slowly; he releases his more personal desires to her broader rhythm,
conscious that this blends more and more with the harmony of her
solitude; it tells him that his search for freedom on that day, at
least, lies in his submission to her, for Nature is as relentless as
she is benignant.

He remains in this mood and while outwardly still, he seems to move
with the slow, almost monotonous swaying beat of this autumnal day. He
is more contented with a "homely burden" and is more assured of "the
broad margin to his life; he sits in his sunny doorway ... rapt in
revery ... amidst goldenrod, sandcherry, and sumac ... in undisturbed
solitude." At times the more definite personal strivings for the ideal
freedom, the former more active speculations come over him, as if he
would trace a certain intensity even in his submission. "He grew in
those seasons like corn in the night and they were better than any
works of the hands. They were not time subtracted from his life but so
much over and above the usual allowance." "He realized what the
Orientals meant by contemplation and forsaking of works." "The day
advanced as if to light some work of his--it was morning and lo! now it
is evening and nothing memorable is accomplished..." "The evening train
has gone by," and "all the restless world with it. The fishes in the
pond no longer feel its rumbling and he is more alone than ever..." His
meditations are interrupted only by the faint sound of the Concord
bell--'tis prayer-meeting night in the village--"a melody as it were,
imported into the wilderness..." "At a distance over the woods the
sound acquires a certain vibratory hum as if the pine needles in the
horizon were the strings of a harp which it swept... A vibration of the
universal lyre... Just as the intervening atmosphere makes a distant
ridge of earth interesting to the eyes by the azure tint it imparts."
... Part of the echo may be "the voice of the wood; the same trivial
words and notes sung by the wood nymph." It is darker, the poet's flute
is heard out over the pond and Walden hears the swan song of that "Day"
and faintly echoes... Is it a transcendental tune of Concord? 'Tis an
evening when the "whole body is one sense," ... and before ending his
day he looks out over the clear, crystalline water of the pond and
catches a glimpse of the shadow--thought he saw in the morning's mist
and haze--he knows that by his final submission, he possesses the
"Freedom of the Night." He goes up the "pleasant hillside of pines,
hickories," and moonlight to his cabin, "with a strange liberty in
Nature, a part of herself."



VI--Epilogue


1


The futility of attempting to trace the source or primal impulse of an
art-inspiration may be admitted without granting that human qualities
or attributes which go with personality cannot be suggested, and that
artistic intuitions which parallel them cannot be reflected in music.
Actually accomplishing the latter is a problem, more or less arbitrary
to an open mind, more or less impossible to a prejudiced mind.

That which the composer intends to represent as "high vitality" sounds
like something quite different to different listeners. That which I
like to think suggests Thoreau's submission to nature may, to another,
seem something like Hawthorne's "conception of the relentlessness of an
evil conscience"--and to the rest of our friends, but a series of
unpleasant sounds. How far can the composer be held accountable? Beyond
a certain point the responsibility is more or less undeterminable. The
outside characteristics--that is, the points furthest away from the
mergings--are obvious to mostly anyone. A child knows a "strain of
joy," from one of sorrow. Those a little older know the dignified from
the frivolous--the Spring Song from the season in which the "melancholy
days have come" (though is there not a glorious hope in autumn!). But
where is the definite expression of late-spring against early-summer,
of happiness against optimism? A painter paints a sunset--can he paint
the setting sun?

In some century to come, when the school children will whistle popular
tunes in quarter-tones--when the diatonic scale will be as obsolete as
the pentatonic is now--perhaps then these borderland experiences may be
both easily expressed and readily recognized. But maybe music was not
intended to satisfy the curious definiteness of man. Maybe it is better
to hope that music may always be a transcendental language in the most
extravagant sense. Possibly the power of literally distinguishing these
"shades of abstraction"--these attributes paralleled by "artistic
intuitions" (call them what you will)-is ever to be denied man for the
same reason that the beginning and end of a circle are to be denied.


2


There may be an analogy--and on first sight it seems that there must
be--between both the state and power of artistic perceptions and the
law of perpetual change, that ever-flowing stream partly biological,
partly cosmic, ever going on in ourselves, in nature, in all life. This
may account for the difficulty of identifying desired qualities with
the perceptions of them in expression. Many things are constantly
coming into being, while others are constantly going out--one part of
the same thing is coming in while another part is going out of
existence. Perhaps this is why the above conformity in art (a
conformity which we seem naturally to look for) appears at times so
unrealizable, if not impossible. It will be assumed, to make this
theory clearer, that the "flow" or "change" does not go on in the
art-product itself. As a matter of fact it probably does, to a certain
extent--a picture, or a song, may gain or lose in value beyond what the
painter or composer knew, by the progress and higher development in all
art. Keats may be only partially true when he says that "A work of
beauty is a joy forever"--a thing that is beautiful to ME, is a joy to
ME, as long as it remains beautiful to ME--and if it remains so as long
as I live, it is so forever, that is, forever to ME. If he had put it
this way, he would have been tiresome, inartistic, but perhaps truer.
So we will assume here that this change only goes on in man and nature;
and that this eternal process in mankind is paralleled in some way
during each temporary, personal life.

A young man, two generations ago, found an identity with his ideals, in
Rossini; when an older man in Wagner. A young man, one generation ago,
found his in Wagner, but when older in Cesar Franck or Brahms. Some may
say that this change may not be general, universal, or natural, and
that it may be due to a certain kind of education, or to a certain
inherited or contracted prejudice. We cannot deny or affirm this,
absolutely, nor will we try to even qualitatively--except to say that
it will be generally admitted that Rossini, today, does not appeal to
this generation, as he did to that of our fathers. As far as prejudice
or undue influence is concerned, and as an illustration in point, the
following may be cited to show that training may have but little effect
in this connection, at least not as much as usually supposed--for we
believe this experience to be, to a certain extent, normal, or at
least, not uncommon. A man remembers, when he was a boy of about
fifteen years, hearing his music-teacher (and father) who had just
returned from a performance of Siegfried say with a look of anxious
surprise that "somehow or other he felt ashamed of enjoying the music
as he did," for beneath it all he was conscious of an undercurrent of
"make-believe"--the bravery was make-believe, the love was
make-believe, the passion, the virtue, all make-believe, as was the
dragon--P. T. Barnum would have been brave enough to have gone out and
captured a live one! But, that same boy at twenty-five was listening to
Wagner with enthusiasm, his reality was real enough to inspire a
devotion. The "Preis-Lied," for instance, stirred him deeply. But when
he became middle-aged--and long before the Hohenzollern hog-marched
into Belgium--this music had become cloying, the melodies threadbare--a
sense of something commonplace--yes--of make-believe came. These
feelings were fought against for association's sake, and because of
gratitude for bygone pleasures--but the former beauty and nobility were
not there, and in their place stood irritating intervals of descending
fourths and fifths. Those once transcendent progressions, luxuriant
suggestions of Debussy chords of the 9th, 11th, etc., were becoming
slimy. An unearned exultation--a sentimentality deadening something
within hides around in the music. Wagner seems less and less to measure
up to the substance and reality of Cesar Franck, Brahms, d'Indy, or
even Elgar (with all his tiresomeness), the wholesomeness, manliness,
humility, and deep spiritual, possibly religious feeling of these men
seem missing and not made up for by his (Wagner's) manner and
eloquence, even if greater than theirs (which is very doubtful).

From the above we would try to prove that as this stream of change
flows towards the eventual ocean of mankind's perfection, the art-works
in which we identify our higher ideals come by this process to be
identified with the lower ideals of those who embark after us when the
stream has grown in depth. If we stop with the above experience, our
theory of the effect of man's changing nature, as thus explaining
artistic progress, is perhaps sustained. Thus would we show that the
perpetual flow of the life stream is affected by and affects each
individual riverbed of the universal watersheds. Thus would we prove
that the Wagner period was normal, because we intuitively recognized
whatever identity we were looking for at a certain period in our life,
and the fact that it was so made the Franck period possible and then
normal at a later period in our life. Thus would we assume that this is
as it should be, and that it is not Wagner's content or substance or
his lack of virtue, that something in us has made us flow past him and
not he past us. But something blocks our theory! Something makes our
hypotheses seem purely speculative if not useless. It is men like Bach
and Beethoven.

Is it not a matter nowadays of common impression or general opinion
(for the law of averages plays strongly in any theory relating to human
attributes) that the world's attitude towards the substance and quality
and spirit of these two men, or other men of like character, if there
be such, has not been affected by the flowing stream that has changed
us? But if by the measure of this public opinion, as well as it can be
measured, Bach and Beethoven are being flowed past--not as fast perhaps
as Wagner is, but if they are being passed at all from this deeper
viewpoint, then this "change" theory holds.

Here we shall have to assume, for we haven't proved it, that artistic
intuitions can sense in music a weakening of moral strength and
vitality, and that it is sensed in relation to Wagner and not sensed in
relation to Bach and Beethoven. If, in this common opinion, there is a
particle of change toward the latter's art, our theory stands--mind
you, this admits a change in the manner, form, external expression,
etc., but not in substance. If there is no change here towards the
substance of these two men, our theory not only falls but its failure
superimposes or allows us to presume a fundamental duality in music,
and in all art for that matter.

Does the progress of intrinsic beauty or truth (we assume there is such
a thing) have its exposures as well as its discoveries? Does the
non-acceptance of the foregoing theory mean that Wagner's substance and
reality are lower and his manner higher; that his beauty was not
intrinsic; that he was more interested in the repose of pride than in
the truth of humility? It appears that he chose the representative
instead of the spirit itself,--that he chose consciously or
unconsciously, it matters not,--the lower set of values in this
dualism. These are severe accusations to bring--especially when a man
is a little down as Wagner is today. But these convictions were present
some time before he was banished from the Metropolitan. Wagner seems to
take Hugo's place in Faguet's criticism of de Vigny that, "The staging
to him (Hugo) was the important thing--not the conception--that in de
Vigny, the artist was inferior to the poet"; finally that Hugo and so
Wagner have a certain pauvrete de fond. Thus would we ungenerously make
Wagner prove our sum! But it is a sum that won't prove! The theory at
its best does little more than suggest something, which if it is true
at all, is a platitude, viz.: that progressive growth in all life makes
it more and more possible for men to separate, in an art-work, moral
weakness from artistic strength.


3


Human attributes are definite enough when it comes to their
description, but the expression of them, or the paralleling of them in
an art-process, has to be, as said above, more or less arbitrary, but
we believe that their expression can be less vague if the basic
distinction of this art-dualism is kept in mind. It is morally certain
that the higher part is founded, as Sturt suggests, on something that
has to do with those kinds of unselfish human interests which we call
knowledge and morality--knowledge, not in the sense of erudition, but
as a kind of creation or creative truth. This allows us to assume that
the higher and more important value of this dualism is composed of what
may be called reality, quality, spirit, or substance against the lower
value of form, quantity, or manner. Of these terms "substance" seems to
us the most appropriate, cogent, and comprehensive for the higher and
"manner" for the under-value. Substance in a human-art-quality suggests
the body of a conviction which has its birth in the spiritual
consciousness, whose youth is nourished in the moral consciousness, and
whose maturity as a result of all this growth is then represented in a
mental image. This is appreciated by the intuition, and somehow
translated into expression by "manner"--a process always less important
than it seems, or as suggested by the foregoing (in fact we apologize
for this attempted definition). So it seems that "substance" is too
indefinite to analyze, in more specific terms. It is practically
indescribable. Intuitions (artistic or not?) will sense it--process,
unknown. Perhaps it is an unexplained consciousness of being nearer
God, or being nearer the devil--of approaching truth or approaching
unreality--a silent something felt in the truth-of-nature in Turner
against the truth-of-art in Botticelli, or in the fine thinking of
Ruskin against the fine soundings of Kipling, or in the wide expanse of
Titian against the narrow-expanse of Carpaccio, or in some such
distinction that Pope sees between what he calls Homer's "invention"
and Virgil's "judgment"--apparently an inspired imagination against an
artistic care, a sense of the difference, perhaps, between Dr.
Bushnell's Knowing God and knowing about God. A more vivid explanation
or illustration may be found in the difference between Emerson and Poe.
The former seems to be almost wholly "substance" and the latter
"manner." The measure in artistic satisfaction of Poe's manner is equal
to the measure of spiritual satisfaction in Emerson's "substance." The
total value of each man is high, but Emerson's is higher than Poe's
because "substance" is higher than "manner"--because "substance" leans
towards optimism, and "manner" pessimism. We do not know that all this
is so, but we feel, or rather know by intuition that it is so, in the
same way we know intuitively that right is higher than wrong, though we
can't always tell why a thing is right or wrong, or what is always the
difference or the margin between right and wrong.

Beauty, in its common conception, has nothing to do with it
(substance), unless it be granted that its outward aspect, or the
expression between sensuous beauty and spiritual beauty can be always
and distinctly known, which it cannot, as the art of music is still in
its infancy. On reading this over, it seems only decent that some kind
of an apology be made for the beginning of the preceding sentence. It
cannot justly be said that anything that has to do with art has nothing
to do with beauty in any degree,--that is, whether beauty is there or
not, it has something to do with it. A casual idea of it, a kind of a
first necessary-physical impression, was what we had in mind. Probably
nobody knows what actual beauty is--except those serious writers of
humorous essays in art magazines, who accurately, but kindly, with club
in hand, demonstrate for all time and men that beauty is a quadratic
monomial; that it _is_ absolute; that it is relative; that it _is _not_
relative, that it _is _not_... The word "beauty" is as easy to use as
the word "degenerate." Both come in handy when one does or does not
agree with you. For our part, something that Roussel-Despierres says
comes nearer to what we like to think beauty is ... "an infinite source
of good ... the love of the beautiful ... a constant anxiety for moral
beauty." Even here we go around in a circle--a thing apparently
inevitable, if one tries to reduce art to philosophy. But personally,
we prefer to go around in a circle than around in a parallelepipedon,
for it seems cleaner and perhaps freer from mathematics--or for the
same reason we prefer Whittier to Baudelaire--a poet to a genius, or a
healthy to a rotten apple--probably not so much because it is more
nutritious, but because we like its taste better; we like the beautiful
and don't like the ugly; therefore, what we like is beautiful, and what
we don't like is ugly--and hence we are glad the beautiful is not ugly,
for if it were we would like something we don't like. So having
unsettled what beauty is, let us go on.

At any rate, we are going to be arbitrary enough to claim, with no
definite qualification, that substance can be expressed in music, and
that it is the only valuable thing in it, and moreover that in two
separate pieces of music in which the notes are almost identical, one
can be of "substance" with little "manner," and the other can be of
"manner" with little "substance." Substance has something to do with
character. Manner has nothing to do with it. The "substance" of a tune
comes from somewhere near the soul, and the "manner" comes from--God
knows where.


4


The lack of interest to preserve, or ability to perceive the
fundamental divisions of this duality accounts to a large extent, we
believe, for some or many various phenomena (pleasant or unpleasant
according to the personal attitude) of modern art, and all art. It is
evidenced in many ways--the sculptors' over-insistence on the "mold,"
the outer rather than the inner subject or content of his
statue--over-enthusiasm for local color--over-interest in the
multiplicity of techniques, in the idiomatic, in the effect as shown,
by the appreciation of an audience rather than in the effect on the
ideals of the inner conscience of the artist or the composer. This lack
of perceiving is too often shown by an over-interest in the material
value of the effect. The pose of self-absorption, which some men, in
the advertising business (and incidentally in the recital and composing
business) put into their photographs or the portraits of themselves,
while all dolled up in their purple-dressing-gowns, in their twofold
wealth of golden hair, in their cissy-like postures over the piano
keys--this pose of "manner" sometimes sounds out so loud that the more
their music is played, the less it is heard. For does not Emerson tell
them this when he says "What you are talks so loud, that I cannot hear
what you say"? The unescapable impression that one sometimes gets by a
glance at these public-inflicted trade-marks, and without having heard
or seen any of their music, is that the one great underlying desire of
these appearing-artists, is to impress, perhaps startle and shock their
audiences and at any cost. This may have some such effect upon some of
the lady-part (male or female) of their listeners but possibly the
members of the men-part, who as boys liked hockey better than
birthday-parties, may feel like shocking a few of these picture-sitters
with something stronger than their own forzandos.

The insistence upon manner in its relation to local color is wider than
a self-strain for effect. If local color is a natural part, that is, a
part of substance, the art-effort cannot help but show its color--and
it will be a true color, no matter how colored; if it is a part, even a
natural part of "manner," either the color part is bound eventually to
drive out the local part or the local drive out all color. Here a
process of cancellation or destruction is going on--a kind of
"compromise" which destroys by deadlock; a compromise purchasing a
selfish pleasure--a decadence in which art becomes first dull, then
dark, then dead, though throughout this process it is outwardly very
much alive,--especially after it is dead. The same tendency may even be
noticed if there is over-insistence upon the national in art. Substance
tends to create affection; manner prejudice. The latter tends to efface
the distinction between the love of both a country's virtue and vices,
and the love of only the virtue. A true love of country is likely to be
so big that it will embrace the virtue one sees in other countries and,
in the same breath, so to speak. A composer born in America, but who
has not been interested in the "cause of the Freedmen," may be so
interested in "negro melodies," that he writes a symphony over them. He
is conscious (perhaps only subconscious) that he wishes it to be
"American music." He tries to forget that the paternal negro came from
Africa. Is his music American or African? That is the great question
which keeps him awake! But the sadness of it is, that if he had been
born in Africa, his music might have been just as American, for there
is good authority that an African soul under an X-ray looks identically
like an American soul. There is a futility in selecting a certain type
to represent a "whole," unless the interest in the spirit of the type
coincides with that of the whole. In other words, if this composer
isn't as deeply interested in the "cause" as Wendell Phillips was, when
he fought his way through that anti-abolitionist crowd at Faneuil Hall,
his music is liable to be less American than he wishes. If a
middle-aged man, upon picking up the Scottish Chiefs, finds that his
boyhood enthusiasm for the prowess and noble deeds and character of Sir
Wm. Wallace and of Bruce is still present, let him put, or try to put
that glory into an overture, let him fill it chuck-full of Scotch
tunes, if he will. But after all is said and sung he will find that his
music is American to the core (assuming that he is an American and
wishes his music to be). It will be as national in character as the
heart of that Grand Army Grandfather, who read those Cragmore Tales of
a summer evening, when that boy had brought the cows home without
witching. Perhaps the memories of the old soldier, to which this man
still holds tenderly, may be turned into a "strain" or a "sonata," and
though the music does not contain, or even suggest any of the old
war-songs, it will be as sincerely American as the subject, provided
his (the composer's) interest, spirit, and character sympathize with,
or intuitively coincide with that of the subject.

Again, if a man finds that the cadences of an Apache war-dance come
nearest to his soul, provided he has taken pains to know enough other
cadences--for eclecticism is part of his duty--sorting potatoes means a
better crop next year--let him assimilate whatever he finds highest of
the Indian ideal, so that he can use it with the cadences, fervently,
transcendentally, inevitably, furiously, in his symphonies, in his
operas, in his whistlings on the way to work, so that he can paint his
house with them--make them a part of his prayer-book--this is all
possible and necessary, if he is confident that they have a part in his
spiritual consciousness. With this assurance his music will have
everything it should of sincerity, nobility, strength, and beauty, no
matter how it sounds; and if, with this, he is true to none but the
highest of American ideals (that is, the ideals only that coincide with
his spiritual consciousness) his music will be true to itself and
incidentally American, and it will be so even after it is proved that
all our Indians came from Asia.

The man "born down to Babbitt's Corners," may find a deep appeal in the
simple but acute "Gospel Hymns of the New England camp meetin'," of a
generation or so ago. He finds in them--some of them--a vigor, a depth
of feeling, a natural-soil rhythm, a sincerity, emphatic but
inartistic, which, in spite of a vociferous sentimentality, carries him
nearer the "Christ of the people" than does the Te Deum of the greatest
cathedral. These tunes have, for him, a truer ring than many of those
groove-made, even-measured, monotonous, non-rhythmed, indoor-smelling,
priest-taught, academic, English or neo-English hymns (and
anthems)--well-written, well-harmonized things, well-voice-led,
well-counterpointed, well-corrected, and well O.K.'d, by well corrected
Mus. Bac. R.F.O.G.'s-personified sounds, correct and inevitable to
sight and hearing--in a word, those proper forms of stained-glass
beauty, which our over-drilled mechanisms-boy-choirs are limited to.
But, if the Yankee can reflect the fervency with which "his gospels"
were sung--the fervency of "Aunt Sarah," who scrubbed her life away,
for her brother's ten orphans, the fervency with which this woman,
after a fourteen-hour work day on the farm, would hitch up and drive
five miles, through the mud and rain to "prayer meetin'"--her one
articulate outlet for the fullness of her unselfish soul--if he can
reflect the fervency of such a spirit, he may find there a local color
that will do all the world good. If his music can but catch that
"spirit" by being a part with itself, it will come somewhere near his
ideal--and it will be American, too, perhaps nearer so than that of the
devotee of Indian or negro melody. In other words, if local color,
national color, any color, is a true pigment of the universal color, it
is a divine quality, it is a part of substance in art--not of manner.
The preceding illustrations are but attempts to show that whatever
excellence an artist sees in life, a community, in a people, or in any
valuable object or experience, if sincerely and intuitively reflected
in his work, and so he himself, is, in a way, a reflected part of that
excellence. Whether he be accepted or rejected, whether his music is
always played, or never played--all this has nothing to do with it--it
is true or false by his own measure. If we may be permitted to leave
out two words, and add a few more, a sentence of Hegel appears to sum
up this idea, "The universal need for expression in art lies in man's
rational impulse to exalt the inner ... world (i.e., the highest ideals
he sees in the inner life of others) together with what he finds in his
own life--into a spiritual consciousness for himself." The artist does
feel or does not feel that a sympathy has been approved by an artistic
intuition and so reflected in his work. Whether he feels this sympathy
is true or not in the final analysis, is a thing probably that no one
but he (the artist) knows but the truer he feels it, the more substance
it has, or as Sturt puts it, "his work is art, so long as he feels in
doing it as true artists feel, and so long as his object is akin to the
objects that true artists admire."

Dr. Griggs in an Essay on Debussy, [John C. Griggs, "Debussy" Yale
Review, 1914] asks if this composer's content is worthy the manner.
Perhaps so, perhaps not--Debussy himself, doubtless, could not give a
positive answer. He would better know how true his feeling and sympathy
was, and anyone else's personal opinion can be of but little help here.

We might offer the suggestion that Debussy's content would have been
worthier his manner, if he had hoed corn or sold newspapers for a
living, for in this way he might have gained a deeper vitality and
truer theme to sing at night and of a Sunday. Or we might say that what
substance there is, is "too coherent"--it is too clearly expressed in
the first thirty seconds. There you have the "whole fragment," a
translucent syllogism, but then the reality, the spirit, the substance
stops and the "form," the "perfume," the "manner," shimmer right along,
as the soapsuds glisten after one has finished washing. Or we might say
that his substance would have been worthier, if his adoration or
contemplation of Nature, which is often a part of it, and which rises
to great heights, as is felt for example, in La Mer, had been more the
quality of Thoreau's. Debussy's attitude toward Nature seems to have a
kind of sensual sensuousness underlying it, while Thoreau's is a kind
of spiritual sensuousness. It is rare to find a farmer or peasant whose
enthusiasm for the beauty in Nature finds outward expression to compare
with that of the city-man who comes out for a Sunday in the country,
but Thoreau is that rare country-man and Debussy the city-man with his
weekend flights into country-aesthetics. We would be inclined to say
that Thoreau leaned towards substance and Debussy towards manner.


5


There comes from Concord, an offer to every mind--the choice between
repose and truth, and God makes the offer. "Take which you
please ... between these, as a pendulum, man oscillates. He in whom the
love of repose predominates will accept the first creed, the first
philosophy, the first political party he meets," most likely his
father's. He gets rest, commodity, and reputation. Here is another
aspect of art-duality, but it is more drastic than ours, as it would
eliminate one part or the other. A man may aim as high as Beethoven or
as high as Richard Strauss. In the former case the shot may go far
below the mark; in truth, it has not been reached since that "thunder
storm of 1828" and there is little chance that it will be reached by
anyone living today, but that matters not, the shot will never rebound
and destroy the marksman. But, in the latter case, the shot may often
hit the mark, but as often rebound and harden, if not destroy, the
shooter's heart--even his soul. What matters it, men say, he will then
find rest, commodity, and reputation--what matters it--if he find there
but few perfect truths--what matters (men say)--he will find there
perfect media, those perfect instruments of getting in the way of
perfect truths.

This choice tells why Beethoven is always modern and Strauss always
mediaeval--try as he may to cover it up in new bottles. He has chosen
to capitalize a "talent"--he has chosen the complexity of media, the
shining hardness of externals, repose, against the inner, invisible
activity of truth. He has chosen the first creed, the easy creed, the
philosophy of his fathers, among whom he found a half-idiot-genius
(Nietzsche). His choice naturally leads him to glorify and to magnify
all kind of dull things--stretched-out geigermusik--which in turn
naturally leads him to "windmills" and "human heads on silver
platters." Magnifying the dull into the colossal, produces a kind of
"comfort"--the comfort of a woman who takes more pleasure in the fit of
fashionable clothes than in a healthy body--the kind of comfort that
has brought so many "adventures of baby-carriages at county
fairs"--"the sensation of Teddy bears, smoking their first
cigarette"--on the program of symphony orchestras of one hundred
performers,--the lure of the media--the means--not the end--but the
finish,--thus the failure to perceive that thoughts and memories of
childhood are too tender, and some of them too sacred to be worn
lightly on the sleeve. Life is too short for these one hundred men, to
say nothing of the composer and the "dress-circle," to spend an
afternoon in this way. They are but like the rest of us, and have only
the expectancy of the mortality-table to survive--perhaps only this
"piece." We cannot but feel that a too great desire for "repose"
accounts for such phenomena. A MS. score is brought to a
concertmaster--he may be a violinist--he is kindly disposed, he looks
it over, and casually fastens on a passage "that's bad for the fiddles,
it doesn't hang just right, write it like this, they will play it
better." But that one phrase is the germ of the whole thing. "Never
mind, it will fit the hand better this way--it will sound better." My
God! what has sound got to do with music! The waiter brings the only
fresh egg he has, but the man at breakfast sends it back because it
doesn't fit his eggcup. Why can't music go out in the same way it comes
in to a man, without having to crawl over a fence of sounds, thoraxes,
catguts, wire, wood, and brass? Consecutive-fifths are as harmless as
blue laws compared with the relentless tyranny of the "media." The
instrument!--there is the perennial difficulty--there is music's
limitations. Why must the scarecrow of the keyboard--the tyrant in
terms of the mechanism (be it Caruso or a Jew's-harp) stare into every
measure? Is it the composer's fault that man has only ten fingers? Why
can't a musical thought be presented as it is born--perchance "a
bastard of the slums," or a "daughter of a bishop"--and if it happens
to go better later on a bass-drum (than upon a harp) get a good
bass-drummer. [Footnote: The first movement (Emerson) of the music,
which is the cause of all these words, was first thought of (we
believe) in terms of a large orchestra, the second (Hawthorne) in terms
of a piano or a dozen pianos, the third (Alcotts)--of an organ (or
piano with voice or violin), and the last (Thoreau), in terms of
strings, colored possibly with a flute or horn.] That music must be
heard, is not essential--what it sounds like may not be what it is.
Perhaps the day is coming when music--believers will learn "that
silence is a solvent ... that gives us leave to be universal" rather than
personal.

Some fiddler was once honest or brave enough, or perhaps ignorant
enough, to say that Beethoven didn't know how to write for the
violin,--that, maybe, is one of the many reasons Beethoven is not a
Vieuxtemps. Another man says Beethoven's piano sonatas are not
pianistic--with a little effort, perhaps, Beethoven could have become a
Thalberg. His symphonies are perfect-truths and perfect for the
orchestra of 1820--but Mahler could have made them--possibly did make
them--we will say, "more perfect," as far as their media clothes are
concerned, and Beethoven is today big enough to rather like it. He is
probably in the same amiable state of mind that the Jesuit priest said,
"God was in," when He looked down on the camp ground and saw the priest
sleeping with a Congregational Chaplain. Or in the same state of mind
you'll be in when you look down and see the sexton keeping your
tombstone up to date. The truth of Joachim offsets the repose of
Paganini and Kubelik. The repose and reputation of a successful
pianist--(whatever that means) who plays Chopin so cleverly that he
covers up a sensuality, and in such a way that the purest-minded see
nothing but sensuous beauty in it, which, by the way, doesn't disturb
him as much as the size of his income-tax--the repose and fame of this
man is offset by the truth and obscurity of the village organist who
plays Lowell Mason and Bach with such affection that he would give his
life rather than lose them. The truth and courage of this organist, who
risks his job, to fight the prejudice of the congregation, offset the
repose and large salary of a more celebrated choirmaster, who holds his
job by lowering his ideals, who is willing to let the organ smirk under
an insipid, easy-sounding barcarolle for the offertory, who is willing
to please the sentimental ears of the music committee (and its
wives)--who is more willing to observe these forms of politeness than
to stand up for a stronger and deeper music of simple devotion, and for
a service of a spiritual unity, the kind of thing that Mr. Bossitt, who
owns the biggest country place, the biggest bank, and the biggest
"House of God" in town (for is it not the divine handiwork of his
own-pocketbook)--the kind of music that this man, his wife, and his
party (of property right in pews) can't stand because it isn't "pretty."

The doctrine of this "choice" may be extended to the distinction
between literal-enthusiasm and natural-enthusiasm (right or wrong
notes, good or bad tones against good or bad interpretation, good or
bad sentiment) or between observation and introspection, or to the
distinction between remembering and dreaming. Strauss remembers,
Beethoven dreams. We see this distinction also in Goethe's confusion of
the moral with the intellectual. There is no such confusion in
Beethoven--to him they are one. It is told, and the story is so well
known that we hesitate to repeat it here, that both these men were
standing in the street one day when the Emperor drove by--Goethe, like
the rest of the crowd, bowed and uncovered--but Beethoven stood bolt
upright, and refused even to salute, saying: "Let him bow to us, for
ours is a nobler empire." Goethe's mind knew this was true, but his
moral courage was not instinctive.

This remembering faculty of "repose," throws the mind in unguarded
moments quite naturally towards "manner" and thus to the many things
the media can do. It brings on an itching to over-use them--to be
original (if anyone will tell what that is) with nothing but numbers to
be original with. We are told that a conductor (of the orchestra) has
written a symphony requiring an orchestra of one hundred and fifty men.
If his work perhaps had one hundred and fifty valuable ideas, the one
hundred and fifty men might be justifiable--but as it probably contains
not more than a dozen, the composer may be unconsciously ashamed of
them, and glad to cover them up under a hundred and fifty men. A man
may become famous because he is able to eat nineteen dinners a day, but
posterity will decorate his stomach, not his brain.

Manner breeds a cussed-cleverness--only to be clever--a satellite of
super-industrialism, and perhaps to be witty in the bargain, not the
wit in mother-wit, but a kind of indoor, artificial, mental arrangement
of things quickly put together and which have been learned and
studied--it is of the material and stays there, while humor is of the
emotional and of the approaching spiritual. Even Dukas, and perhaps
other Gauls, in their critical heart of hearts, may admit that "wit" in
music, is as impossible as "wit" at a funeral. The wit is evidence of
its lack. Mark Twain could be humorous at the death of his dearest
friend, but in such a way as to put a blessing into the heart of the
bereaved. Humor in music has the same possibilities. But its quantity
has a serious effect on its quality, "inverse ratio" is a good formula
to adopt here. Comedy has its part, but wit never. Strauss is at his
best in these lower rooms, but his comedy reminds us more of the
physical fun of Lever rather than "comedy in the Meredithian sense" as
Mason suggests. Meredith is a little too deep or too subtle for
Strauss--unless it be granted that cynicism is more a part of comedy
than a part of refined-insult. Let us also remember that Mr. Disston,
not Mr. Strauss, put the funny notes in the bassoon. A symphony written
only to amuse and entertain is likely to amuse only the writer--and him
not long after the check is cashed.

"Genius is always ascetic and piety and love," thus Emerson reinforces
"God's offer of this choice" by a transcendental definition. The moment
a famous violinist refused "to appear" until he had received his
check,--at that moment, precisely (assuming for argument's sake, that
this was the first time that materialism had the ascendancy in this
man's soul) at that moment he became but a man of
"talent"--incidentally, a small man and a small violinist, regardless
of how perfectly he played, regardless to what heights of emotion he
stirred his audience, regardless of the sublimity of his artistic and
financial success.

d'Annunzio, it is told, becoming somewhat discouraged at the result of
some of his Fiume adventures said: "We are the only Idealists left."
This remark may have been made in a moment of careless impulse, but if
it is taken at its face value, the moment it was made that moment his
idealism started downhill. A grasp at monopoly indicates that a sudden
shift has taken place from the heights where genius may be found, to
the lower plains of talent. The mind of a true idealist is great enough
to know that a monopoly of idealism or of wheat is a thing nature does
not support.

A newspaper music column prints an incident (so how can we assume that
it is not true?) of an American violinist who called on Max Reger, to
tell him how much he (the American) appreciated his music. Reger gives
him a hopeless look and cries: "What! a musician and not speak German!"
At that moment, by the clock, regardless of how great a genius he may
have been before that sentence was uttered--at that moment he became
but a man of "talent." "For the man of talent affects to call his
transgressions of the laws of sense trivial and to count them nothing
considered with his devotion to his art." His art never taught him
prejudice or to wear only one eye. "His art is less for every deduction
from his holiness and less for every defect of common sense." And this
common sense has a great deal to do with this distinguishing difference
of Emerson's between genius and talent, repose and truth, and between
all evidences of substance and manner in art. Manner breeds
partialists. "Is America a musical nation?"--if the man who is ever
asking this question would sit down and think something over he might
find less interest in asking it--he might possibly remember that all
nations are more musical than any nation, especially the nation that
pays the most--and pays the most eagerly, for anything, after it has
been professionally-rubber stamped. Music may be yet unborn. Perhaps no
music has ever been written or heard. Perhaps the birth of art will
take place at the moment, in which the last man, who is willing to make
a living out of art is gone and gone forever. In the history of this
youthful world the best product that human-beings can boast of is
probably, Beethoven--but, maybe, even his art is as nothing in
comparison with the future product of some coal-miner's soul in the
forty-first century. And the same man who is ever asking about the most
musical nation, is ever discovering the most musical man of the most
musical nation. When particularly hysterical he shouts, "I have found
him! Smith Grabholz--the one great American poet,--at last, here is the
Moses the country has been waiting for"--(of course we all know that
the country has not been waiting for anybody--and we have many Moses
always with us). But the discoverer keeps right on shouting "Here is
the one true American poetry, I pronounce it the work of a genius. I
predict for him the most brilliant career--for his is an art
that...--for his is a soul that ... for his is a..." and Grabholz is
ruined;--but ruined, not alone, by this perennial discoverer of pearls
in any oyster-shell that treats him the best, but ruined by his own
(Grabholz's) talent,--for genius will never let itself be discovered by
"a man." Then the world may ask "Can the one true national "this" or
"that" be killed by its own discoverer?" "No," the country replies,
"but each discovery is proof of another impossibility." It is a sad
fact that the one true man and the one true art will never behave as
they should except in the mind of the partialist whom God has
forgotten. But this matters little to him (the man)--his business is
good--for it is easy to sell the future in terms of the past--and there
are always some who will buy anything. The individual usually "gains"
if he is willing to but lean on "manner." The evidence of this is quite
widespread, for if the discoverer happens to be in any other line of
business his sudden discoveries would be just as important--to him. In
fact, the theory of substance and manner in art and its related
dualisms, "repose and truth, genius and talent," &c., may find
illustration in many, perhaps most, of the human activities. And when
examined it (the illustration) is quite likely to show how "manner" is
always discovering partisans. For example, enthusiastic discoveries of
the "paragon" are common in politics--an art to some. These
revelations, in this profession are made easy by the pre-election
discovering-leaders of the people. And the genius who is discovered,
forthwith starts his speeches of "talent"--though they are hardly
that--they are hardly more than a string of subplatitudes,
square-looking, well-rigged things that almost everybody has seen,
known, and heard since Rome or man fell. Nevertheless these signs of
perfect manner, these series of noble sentiments that the "noble" never
get off, are forcibly, clearly, and persuasively handed
out--eloquently, even beautifully expressed, and with such personal
charm, magnetism, and strength, that their profound messages speed
right through the minds and hearts, without as much as spattering the
walls, and land right square in the middle of the listener's vanity.
For all this is a part of manner and its quality is of splendor--for
manner is at times a good bluff but substance a poor one and knows it.
The discovered one's usual and first great outburst is probably the
greatest truth that he ever utters. Fearlessly standing, he looks
straight into the eyes of the populace and with a strong ringing voice
(for strong voices and strong statesmanship are inseparable) and with
words far more eloquent than the following, he sings "This honor is
greater than I deserve but duty calls me--(what, not stated)... If
elected, I shall be your servant" ... (for, it is told, that he
believes in modesty,--that he has even boasted that he is the most
modest man in the country)... Thus he has the right to shout, "First,
last and forever I am for the people. I am against all bosses. I have
no sympathy for politicians. I am for strict economy, liberal
improvements and justice! I am also for the--ten commandments" (his
intuitive political sagacity keeps him from mentioning any particular
one).--But a sublime height is always reached in his perorations. Here
we learn that he believes in honesty--(repeat "honesty");--we are even
allowed to infer that he is one of the very few who know that there is
such a thing; and we also learn that since he was a little boy
(barefoot) his motto has been "Do Right,"--he swerves not from the
right!--he believes in nothing but the right; (to him--everything is
right!--if it gets him elected); but cheers invariably stop this great
final truth (in brackets) from rising to animate expression. Now all of
these translucent axioms are true (are not axioms always true?),--as
far as manner is concerned. In other words, the manner functions
perfectly. But where is the divine substance? This is not there--why
should it be--if it were he might not be there. "Substance" is not
featured in this discovery. For the truth of substance is sometimes
silence, sometimes ellipses,--and the latter if supplied might turn
some of the declarations above into perfect truths,--for instance
"first and last and forever I am for the people ('s votes). I'm against
all bosses (against me). I have no sympathy for (rival) politicians,"
etc., etc. But these tedious attempts at comedy should stop,--they're
too serious,--besides the illustration may be a little hard on a few,
the minority (the non-people) though not on the many, the majority (the
people)! But even an assumed parody may help to show what a power
manner is for reaction unless it is counterbalanced and then saturated
by the other part of the duality. Thus it appears that all there is to
this great discovery is that one good politician has discovered another
good politician. For manner has brought forth its usual talent;--for
manner cannot discover the genius who has discarded platitudes--the
genius who has devised a new and surpassing order for mankind, simple
and intricate enough, abstract and definite enough, locally impractical
and universally practical enough, to wipe out the need for further
discoveries of "talent" and incidentally the discoverer's own fortune
and political "manner." Furthermore, he (this genius) never will be
discovered until the majority-spirit, the common-heart, the
human-oversoul, the source of all great values, converts all talent
into genius, all manner into substance--until the direct expression of
the mind and soul of the majority, the divine right of all
consciousness, social, moral, and spiritual, discloses the one true art
and thus finally discovers the one true leader--even itself:--then no
leaders, no politicians, no manner, will hold sway--and no more
speeches will be heard.

The intensity today, with which techniques and media are organized and
used, tends to throw the mind away from a "common sense" and towards
"manner" and thus to resultant weak and mental states--for example, the
Byronic fallacy--that one who is full of turbid feeling about himself
is qualified to be some sort of an artist. In this relation "manner"
also leads some to think that emotional sympathy for self is as true a
part of art as sympathy for others; and a prejudice in favor of the
good and bad of one personality against the virtue of many
personalities. It may be that when a poet or a whistler becomes
conscious that he is in the easy path of any particular idiom,--that he
is helplessly prejudiced in favor of any particular means of
expression,--that his manner can be catalogued as modern or
classic,--that he favors a contrapuntal groove, a sound-coloring one, a
sensuous one, a successful one, or a melodious one (whatever that
means),--that his interests lie in the French school or the German
school, or the school of Saturn,--that he is involved in this
particular "that" or that particular "this," or in any particular brand
of emotional complexes,--in a word, when he becomes conscious that his
style is "his personal own,"--that it has monopolized a geographical
part of the world's sensibilities, then it may be that the value of his
substance is not growing,--that it even may have started on its way
backwards,--it may be that he is trading an inspiration for a bad habit
and finally that he is reaching fame, permanence, or some other
under-value, and that he is getting farther and farther from a perfect
truth. But, on the contrary side of the picture, it is not unreasonable
to imagine that if he (this poet, composer, and laborer) is open to all
the overvalues within his reach,--if he stands unprotected from all the
showers of the absolute which may beat upon him,--if he is willing to
use or learn to use, or at least if he is not afraid of trying to use,
whatever he can, of any and all lessons of the infinite that humanity
has received and thrown to man,--that nature has exposed and
sacrificed, that life and death have translated--if he accepts all and
sympathizes with all, is influenced by all, whether consciously or
sub-consciously, drastically or humbly, audibly or inaudibly, whether
it be all the virtue of Satan or the only evil of Heaven--and all,
even, at one time, even in one chord,--then it may be that the value of
his substance, and its value to himself, to his art, to all art, even
to the Common Soul is growing and approaching nearer and nearer to
perfect truths--whatever they are and wherever they may be.

Again, a certain kind of manner-over-influence may be caused by a
group-disease germ. The over-influence by, the over-admiration of, and
the over-association with a particular artistic personality or a
particular type or group of personalities tends to produce equally
favorable and unfavorable symptoms, but the unfavorable ones seem to be
more contagious. Perhaps the impulse remark of some famous man (whose
name we forget) that he "loved music but hated musicians," might be
followed (with some good results) at least part of the time. To see the
sun rise, a man has but to get up early, and he can always have Bach in
his pocket. We hear that Mr. Smith or Mr. Morgan, etc., et al. design
to establish a "course at Rome," to raise the standard of American
music, (or the standard of American composers--which is it?) but
possibly the more our composer accepts from his patrons "et al." the
less he will accept from himself. It may be possible that a day in a
"Kansas wheat field" will do more for him than three years in Rome. It
may be, that many men--perhaps some of genius--(if you won't admit that
all are geniuses) have been started on the downward path of subsidy by
trying to write a thousand dollar prize poem or a ten thousand dollar
prize opera. How many masterpieces have been prevented from blossoming
in this way? A cocktail will make a man eat more, but will not give him
a healthy, normal appetite (if he had not that already). If a bishop
should offer a "prize living" to the curate who will love God the
hardest for fifteen days, whoever gets the prize would love God the
least. Such stimulants, it strikes us, tend to industrialize art,
rather than develop a spiritual sturdiness--a sturdiness which Mr.
Sedgwick says [footnote: H. D. Sedgwick. The New American Type.
Riverside Press.] "shows itself in a close union between spiritual life
and the ordinary business of life," against spiritual feebleness which
"shows itself in the separation of the two." If one's spiritual
sturdiness is congenital and somewhat perfect he is not only conscious
that this separation has no part in his own soul, but he does not feel
its existence in others. He does not believe there is such a thing. But
perfection in this respect is rare. And for the most of us, we believe,
this sturdiness would be encouraged by anything that will keep or help
us keep a normal balance between the spiritual life and the ordinary
life. If for every thousand dollar prize a potato field be substituted,
so that these candidates of "Clio" can dig a little in real life,
perhaps dig up a natural inspiration, arts--air might be a little
clearer--a little freer from certain traditional delusions, for
instance, that free thought and free love always go to the same
cafe--that atmosphere and diligence are synonymous. To quote Thoreau
incorrectly: "When half-Gods talk, the Gods walk!" Everyone should have
the opportunity of not being over-influenced.

Again, this over-influence by and over-insistence upon "manner" may
finally lead some to believe "that manner for manner's sake is a basis
of music." Someone is quoted as saying that "ragtime is the true
American music." Anyone will admit that it is one of the many true,
natural, and, nowadays, conventional means of expression. It is an
idiom, perhaps a "set or series of colloquialisms," similar to those
that have added through centuries and through natural means, some
beauty to all languages. Every language is but the evolution of slang,
and possibly the broad "A" in Harvard may have come down from the
"butcher of Southwark." To examine ragtime rhythms and the syncopations
of Schumann or of Brahms seems to the writer to show how much alike
they are not. Ragtime, as we hear it, is, of course, more (but not much
more) than a natural dogma of shifted accents, or a mixture of shifted
and minus accents. It is something like wearing a derby hat on the back
of the head, a shuffling lilt of a happy soul just let out of a Baptist
Church in old Alabama. Ragtime has its possibilities. But it does not
"represent the American nation" any more than some fine old senators
represent it. Perhaps we know it now as an ore before it has been
refined into a product. It may be one of nature's ways of giving art
raw material. Time will throw its vices away and weld its virtues into
the fabric of our music. It has its uses as the cruet on the
boarding-house table has, but to make a meal of tomato ketchup and
horse-radish, to plant a whole farm with sunflowers, even to put a
sunflower into every bouquet, would be calling nature something worse
than a politician. Mr. Daniel Gregory Mason, whose wholesome influence,
by the way, is doing as much perhaps for music in America as American
music is, amusingly says: "If indeed the land of Lincoln and Emerson
has degenerated until nothing remains of it but a 'jerk and rattle,'
then we, at least, are free to repudiate this false patriotism of 'my
Country right or wrong,' to insist that better than bad music is no
music, and to let our beloved art subside finally under the clangor of
the subway gongs and automobile horns, dead, but not dishonored." And
so may we ask: Is it better to sing inadequately of the "leaf on Walden
floating," and die "dead but not dishonored," or to sing adequately of
the "cherry on the cocktail," and live forever?


6


If anyone has been strong enough to escape these rocks--this "Scylla
and Charybdis,"--has survived these wrong choices, these under-values
with their prizes, Bohemias and heroes, is not such a one in a better
position, is he not abler and freer to "declare himself and so to love
his cause so singly that he will cleave to it, and forsake all else?
What is this cause for the American composer but the utmost musical
beauty that he, as an individual man, with his own qualities and
defects, is capable of understanding and striving towards?--forsaking
all else except those types of musical beauty that come home to him,"
[footnote: Contemporary Composers, D. G. Mason, Macmillan Co., N. Y.]
and that his spiritual conscience intuitively approves.

"It matters not one jot, provided this course of personal loyalty to a
cause be steadfastly pursued, what the special characteristics of the
style of the music may be to which one gives one's devotion."
[footnote: Contemporary Composers, D. G. Mason, Macmillan Co., N. Y.]
This, if over-translated, may be made to mean, what we have been trying
to say--that if your interest, enthusiasm, and devotion on the side of
substance and truth, are of the stuff to make you so sincere that you
sweat--to hell with manner and repose! Mr. Mason is responsible for too
many young minds, in their planting season to talk like this, to be as
rough, or to go as far, but he would probably admit that, broadly
speaking--some such way, i.e., constantly recognizing this ideal
duality in art, though not the most profitable road for art to travel,
is almost its only way out to eventual freedom and salvation. Sidney
Lanier, in a letter to Bayard Taylor writes: "I have so many fair
dreams and hopes about music in these days (1875). It is gospel whereof
the people are in great need. As Christ gathered up the Ten
Commandments and redistilled them into the clear liquid of the wondrous
eleventh--love God utterly and thy neighbor as thyself--so I think the
time will come when music rightly developed to its now little forseen
grandeur will be found to be a late revelation of all gospels in one."
Could the art of music, or the art of anything have a more profound
reason for being than this? A conception unlimited by the narrow names
of Christian, Pagan, Jew, or Angel! A vision higher and deeper than art
itself!


7


The humblest composer will not find true humility in aiming low--he
must never be timid or afraid of trying to express that which he feels
is far above his power to express, any more than he should be afraid of
breaking away, when necessary, from easy first sounds, or afraid of
admitting that those half truths that come to him at rare intervals,
are half true, for instance, that all art galleries contain
masterpieces, which are nothing more than a history of art's beautiful
mistakes. He should never fear of being called a high-brow--but not the
kind in Prof. Brander Matthews' definition. John L. Sullivan was a
"high-brow" in his art. A high-brow can always whip a low-brow.

If he "truly seeks," he "will surely find" many things to sustain him.
He can go to a part of Alcott's philosophy--"that all occupations of
man's body and soul in their diversity come from but one mind and
soul!" If he feels that to subscribe to all of the foregoing and then
submit, though not as evidence, the work of his own hands is
presumptuous, let him remember that a man is not always responsible for
the wart on his face, or a girl for the bloom on her cheek, and as they
walk out of a Sunday for an airing, people will see them--but they must
have the air. He can remember with Plotinus, "that in every human soul
there is the ray of the celestial beauty," and therefore every human
outburst may contain a partial ray. And he can believe that it is
better to go to the plate and strike out than to hold the bench down,
for by facing the pitcher, he may then know the umpire better, and
possibly see a new parabola. His presumption, if it be that, may be but
a kind of courage juvenal sings about, and no harm can then be done
either side. "Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator."


8


To divide by an arbitrary line something that cannot be divided is a
process that is disturbing to some. Perhaps our deductions are not as
inevitable as they are logical, which suggests that they are not
"logic." An arbitrary assumption is never fair to all any of the time,
or to anyone all the time. Many will resent the abrupt separation that
a theory of duality in music suggests and say that these general
subdivisions are too closely inter-related to be labeled
decisively--"this or that." There is justice in this criticism, but our
answer is that it is better to be short on the long than long on the
short. In such an abstruse art as music it is easy for one to point to
this as substance and to that as manner. Some will hold and it is
undeniable--in fact quite obvious--that manner has a great deal to do
with the beauty of substance, and that to make a too arbitrary
division, or distinction between them, is to interfere, to some extent,
with an art's beauty and unity. There is a great deal of truth in this
too. But on the other hand, beauty in music is too often confused with
something that lets the ears lie back in an easy chair. Many sounds
that we are used to, do not bother us, and for that reason, we are
inclined to call them beautiful. Frequently,--possibly almost
invariably,--analytical and impersonal tests will show, we believe,
that when a new or unfamiliar work is accepted as beautiful on its
first hearing, its fundamental quality is one that tends to put the
mind to sleep. A narcotic is not always unnecessary, but it is seldom a
basis of progress,--that is, wholesome evolution in any creative
experience. This kind of progress has a great deal to do with
beauty--at least in its deeper emotional interests, if not in its moral
values. (The above is only a personal impression, but it is based on
carefully remembered instances, during a period of about fifteen or
twenty years.) Possibly the fondness for individual utterance may throw
out a skin-deep arrangement, which is readily accepted as
beautiful--formulae that weaken rather than toughen up the
musical-muscles. If the composer's sincere conception of his art and of
its functions and ideals, coincide to such an extent with these
groove-colored permutations of tried out progressions in expediency,
that he can arrange them over and over again to his transcendent
delight--has he or has he not been drugged with an overdose of
habit-forming sounds? And as a result do not the muscles of his
clientele become flabbier and flabbier until they give way altogether
and find refuge only in a seasoned opera box--where they can see
without thinking? And unity is too generally conceived of, or too
easily accepted as analogous to form, and form (as analogous) to
custom, and custom to habit, and habit may be one of the parents of
custom and form, and there are all kinds of parents. Perhaps all unity
in art, at its inception, is half-natural and half-artificial but time
insists, or at least makes us, or inclines to make us feel that it is
all natural. It is easy for us to accept it as such. The "unity of
dress" for a man at a ball requires a collar, yet he could dance better
without it. Coherence, to a certain extent, must bear some relation to
the listener's subconscious perspective. For example, a critic has to
listen to a thousand concerts a year, in which there is much
repetition, not only of the same pieces, but the same formal relations
of tones, cadences, progressions, etc. There is present a certain
routine series of image-necessity-stimulants, which he doesn't seem to
need until they disappear. Instead of listening to music, he listens
around it. And from this subconscious viewpoint, he inclines perhaps
more to the thinking about than thinking in music. If he could go into
some other line of business for a year or so perhaps his perspective
would be more naturally normal. The unity of a sonata movement has long
been associated with its form, and to a greater extent than is
necessary. A first theme, a development, a second in a related key and
its development, the free fantasia, the recapitulation, and so on, and
over again. Mr. Richter or Mr. Parker may tell us that all this is
natural, for it is based on the classic-song form, but in spite of your
teachers a vague feeling sometimes creeps over you that the form-nature
of the song has been stretched out into deformity. Some claim for
Tchaikowsky that his clarity and coherence of design is unparalleled
(or some such word) in works for the orchestra. That depends, it seems
to us, on how far repetition is an essential part of clarity and
coherence. We know that butter comes from cream--but how long must we
watch the "churning arm!" If nature is not enthusiastic about
explanation, why should Tschaikowsky be? Beethoven had to churn, to
some extent, to make his message carry. He had to pull the ear, hard
and in the same place and several times, for the 1790 ear was tougher
than the 1890 one. But the "great Russian weeper" might have spared us.
To Emerson, "unity and the over-soul, or the common-heart, are
synonymous." Unity is at least nearer to these than to solid geometry,
though geometry may be all unity.

But to whatever unpleasantness the holding to this theory of duality
brings us, we feel that there is a natural law underneath it all, and
like all laws of nature, a liberal interpretation is the one nearest
the truth. What part of these supplements are opposites? What part of
substance is manner? What part of this duality is polarity? These
questions though not immaterial may be disregarded, if there be a
sincere appreciation (intuition is always sincere) of the "divine"
spirit of the thing. Enthusiasm for, and recognition of these higher
over these lower values will transform a destructive iconoclasm into
creation, and a mere devotion into consecration--a consecration which,
like Amphion's music, will raise the Walls of Thebes.


9


Assuming, and then granting, that art-activity can be transformed or
led towards an eventual consecration, by recognizing and using in their
true relation, as much as one can, these higher and lower dual
values--and that the doing so is a part, if not the whole of our old
problem of paralleling or approving in art the highest attributes,
moral and spiritual, one sees in life--if you will grant all this, let
us offer a practical suggestion--a thing that one who has imposed the
foregoing should try to do just out of common decency, though it be but
an attempt, perhaps, to make his speculations less speculative, and to
beat off metaphysics.

All, men-bards with a divine spark, and bards without, feel the need at
times of an inspiration from without, "the breath of another soul to
stir our inner flame," especially when we are in pursuit of a part of
that "utmost musical beauty," that we are capable of
understanding--when we are breathlessly running to catch a glimpse of
that unforeseen grandeur of Mr. Lanier's dream. In this beauty and
grandeur perhaps marionettes and their souls have a part--though how
great their part is, we hear, is still undetermined; but it is morally
certain that, at times, a part with itself must be some of those
greater contemplations that have been caught in the "World's Soul," as
it were, and nourished for us there in the soil of its literature.

If an interest in, and a sympathy for, the thought-visions of men like
Charles Kingsley, Marcus Aurelius, Whit tier, Montaigne, Paul of
Tarsus, Robert Browning, Pythagoras, Channing, Milton, Sophocles,
Swedenborg, Thoreau, Francis of Assisi, Wordsworth, Voltaire, Garrison,
Plutarch, Ruskin, Ariosto, and all kindred spirits and souls of great
measure, from David down to Rupert Brooke,--if a study of the thought
of such men creates a sympathy, even a love for them and their
ideal-part, it is certain that this, however inadequately expressed, is
nearer to what music was given man for, than a devotion to "Tristan's
sensual love of Isolde," to the "Tragic Murder of a Drunken Duke," or
to the sad thoughts of a bathtub when the water is being let out. It
matters little here whether a man who paints a picture of a useless
beautiful landscape imperfectly is a greater genius than the man who
paints a useful bad smell perfectly.

It is not intended in this suggestion that inspirations coming from the
higher planes should be limited to any particular thought or work, as
the mind receives it. The plan rather embraces all that should go with
an expression of the composite-value. It is of the underlying spirit,
the direct unrestricted imprint of one soul on another, a portrait, not
a photograph of the personality--it is the ideal part that would be
caught in this canvas. It is a sympathy for "substance"--the over-value
together with a consciousness that there must be a lower value--the
"Demosthenic part of the Philippics"--the "Ciceronic part of the
Catiline," the sublimity, against the vileness of Rousseau's
Confessions. It is something akin to, but something more than these
predominant partial tones of Hawthorne--"the grand old countenance of
Homer; the decrepit form, but vivid face of Aesop; the dark presence of
Dante; the wild Ariosto; Rabelais' smile of deep-wrought mirth; the
profound, pathetic humor of Cervantes; the all-glorious Shakespeare;
Spenser, meet guest for allegoric structure; the severe divinity of
Milton; and Bunyan, molded of humblest clay, but instinct with
celestial fire."

There are communities now, partly vanished, but cherished and sacred,
scattered throughout this world of ours, in which freedom of thought
and soul, and even of body, have been fought for. And we believe that
there ever lives in that part of the over-soul, native to them, the
thoughts which these freedom-struggles have inspired. America is not
too young to have its divinities, and its place legends. Many of those
"Transcendent Thoughts" and "Visions" which had their birth beneath our
Concord elms--messages that have brought salvation to many listening
souls throughout the world--are still growing, day by day, to greater
and greater beauty--are still showing clearer and clearer man's way to
God!

No true composer will take his substance from another finite being--but
there are times, when he feels that his self-expression needs some
liberation from at least a part of his own soul. At such times, shall
he not better turn to those greater souls, rather than to the external,
the immediate, and the "Garish Day"?

The strains of one man may fall far below the course of those Phaetons
of Concord, or of the Aegean Sea, or of Westmorland--but the greater
the distance his music falls away, the more reason that some greater
man shall bring his nearer those higher spheres.


**************************************************************


INFO ABOUT THIS E-TEXT EDITION

This edition of Charles Ives' "Essays Before a Sonata" was originally
published in 1920 by The Knickerbocker Press. It has also been
republished unabridged by Dover Publications, Inc., in a 1962 edition,
ISBN 0-486-20320-4.

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